Developed By: Walk Home Games
Published By: Thalamus Digital
Category: Puzzle, Action
Release Date: 04.29.22
There are few things in gaming that capture my attention like a lone dev tinkering with unique puzzle mechanics. Today’s game, Cardful Planning, scratches that itch pretty darn well. The dev’s name is James, he is from Canada (he lives in Japan, though), and his game takes a simple basis (flipping a card around a grid) and builds a layered, strategic puzzle game over that foundation. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but I would say it’s a lot of fun.
Trying on Different Suits
The basics of the game are pretty simple. You flip a card around a dungeon of grid-based floors. The object of each floor to land face-up on a key space to open the door to the next floor. Again, simple. Some floors require you to collect a power-up to increase the face value of the card to unlock the door, as well. As you progress through the dungeon you encounter new obstacles, like lasers, buzzsaws, and spikes. Overcoming these obstacles requires the use of abilities unlocked by acquiring the four card suits. The Clubs ability lets you move blocks around the grid. The Diamonds ability lets you dash in a straight line until you hit an obstacle, as well as jumping one-space gaps. The Spades ability lets you shoot a laser of your own to destroy certain obstacles – but not all. Finally, Hearts lets you flip your card without moving.
I Don’t Have the Heart for Hearts
Most of these abilities add a cool new dimension for solving puzzles. Some of these dimensions are optional, which allows for multiple ways to clear each floor, which is a really cool feature of my favorite strategic games. You don’t need to use the laser to destroy every crossbow on a level, for instance, but doing so makes moving around the level much easier. The last ability – Hearts – however, actually detracts from the complexity of the game’s puzzles. Figuring out how to traverse the field while always ending the floor face-up on the key is one of the game’s most interesting limits. You have to plan where you move so that you end up with your card in the right position. Having the ability to flip your card whenever you want dulls that strategic element, which is a problem in a game about interesting strategic elements.
Create Your Own Difficulty Level
The good news is, using the Hearts ability doesn’t have to diminish the game’s challenge if you don’t want it to. You can just not hit that button if you want to challenge yourself a little more, just like you can with the game’s other abilities – sometimes. Sometimes a puzzle requires using a certain ability, but figuring out when that’s true is part of the challenge too. If you’re looking for more limits, Cardful Planning offers three ways to play. You can just chill out and solve puzzles, where dying will send you back to the beginning of the floor but won’t reset the level. There’s a time attack mode with online leaderboards that tracks speedrunners, as well as a fewest deaths mode whose leaderboard tracks how many times you die before completing a level.
Gameplay Over Graphics
I was well-pleased with the level of strategic planning involved in Cardful Planning’s puzzles, which is good because there’s not much else going on. The visuals are very sparse – MS-DOS level, honestly. I do happen to have a great deal of nostalgia for DOS games, but it’s hard to say the visuals are stunning, exactly. Nothing looks bad, just bland. The music is chill and thoughtful, which fits the game’s atmosphere well, but similarly to the graphics, it lacks depth or variety. Still, if you’re a fan of unique puzzles, you’re not going to do much better than Cardful Planning. You did a great job, James. Thanks for the good time.
Buy Cardful Planning
Digital – $4.99
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The Switch Effect was supplied a game code for review purposes.