World Championship Cards Review
Card games have been around since the dawn of time…okay, they haven’t, but it feels as if they have. In some ways, it only makes sense to toss about 30 different card games into one video game collection, thereby allowing players to compete against virtual opponents in any number of chosen games. On the other hand, this isn’t exactly a bastion of intense entertainment, and despite supporting up to eight players, it’s difficult to get excited about cards on a TV screen. This is World Championship Cards, but the only tournaments we typically see revolve around Poker (usually Texas Hold ‘Em), and because that popular pastime has several video game titles all its own, Poker isn’t included, here. At least, we assume that’s the reason Crave didn’t include any Poker games. Therefore, we’re left with a variety of games that you my or may not be familiar with, like War, Chicago, Crazy 8s, Rummy, Napolean, Ride the Bus, Bridge, Spades, and several different forms of Solitaire. You can also alter some of the optional rules in these games, but that’s where it all ends.
The graphics probably aren’t even worth discussing, although Crave did try to get us a little more involved by creating our own character and giving us our own pad. You can customize your card player and your room with plenty of different cosmetic changes and additions; the more money you win, the more you can buy to outfit your living environment. But this is just standard PS2 fare, even though they toss in a few extremely kooky character possibilities (why do we need two types of gas masks for our face?). The “arenas” where you play are either typical or fantastical – you can play in a Pirate’s Lair, for instance, but it’s just a regular ol’ room with buccaneer décor – although it hardly matters. There’s a general lack of clarity and a distinct level of drabness associated with every aspect of the visual presentation, but then again, you can’t really blame the developers. …how bored they must’ve been working on the graphics for this game! We can sympathize, but we can’t just award points for sympathy. World Championship Cards, perhaps as expected, don’t look too good.
The sound is actually worse, primarily due to horrendous, repetitive, and completely unnecessary voice acting. Again, it seems as if they wanted to throw in a bunch of ridiculous extras that don’t serve to flesh out the experience, and the voiceovers are too silly for words. There’s the flamboyant, effeminate guy with the most clichéd complaints and remarks, the cowboy with the terrible Clint Eastwood impression, and the skeleton that…I dunno, supposedly sounds like a skeleton, I guess. See, you can’t actually be a skeleton, but you can dress up as a panda and sound like a skeleton, if you so desire. The rest of the sound consists of a soundtrack that can be oddly appealing, but it gets old real fast. But again, as with the graphics, it’s tough to be too critical or judgmental, just because there’s precious little opportunity for sound effects to shine. We’re talking about playing cards, for crying out loud. Not counting a few exclamations here and there and the slight scraping and “whiffing” sound of the cards, card games are inherently quiet.
All of us probably have fond memories of playing cards in the past, whether as children or as adults around a friendly poker table. Crave attempts to rekindle that old love with World Championship Cards, but in the end, all you really need is a good old-fashioned deck of cards. There’s really not much here that will keep you coming back for more, despite the Career-like mode that has you battling up a tournament tier towards card playing championship nirvana. All you can really do is hope the deck stacks in your favor, take your winnings back to your apartment, and buy new clothes and other decorations. Sure, you might get a little of that old familiar thrill when taking down a table of competitors in a five-round game of Crazy 8s, but it’s a very small, and very brief, thrill. And beyond any shadow of a doubt, we’ve discovered there isn’t anything more mind-numbingly boring than playing War in a video game. Press X, play the card, press X, play the card, press X, play the card…‘yawn’ Other games do take a bit of strategy, of course, but a lot of your success still relies on luck.
The controls are about as mundane as the graphics: you will press X to select a card, Circle to play a card, and Square to draw a card. If you find the action is dragging – as it tends to do very often – you can hold down the R1 button to go into “Turbo Mode,” which lets you zip through the computer turns. You can’t really avoid the absurd voices, though, and if you lose, you’ve simply got to try again. Besides a waste of your time, there isn’t a consequence for losing or quitting a tournament; you simply start over and hope your luck gets better the second time around. In addition to winning money, you will also unlock a variety of trinkets for use around your pad, and every once in a while, you will be challenged to a grudge match of sorts. Some “punk” is spreading the nasty rumor that he has superior skills in the world of cards (which must mean he owns a reliable crystal ball), and you’ve got to stomp on that kid’s ego. You know, put the presumptuous little bad boy in his place. Yeah, they’re trying to add diversity and excitement that just doesn’t exist in cards.
World Championship Cards suffers from a lack of any Poker options – at least those games might have been somewhat interesting – and from the simple fact that it can’t offer anything besides…well, playing cards. What more is there to say? The only two bonuses offered here are the 8-player multiplayer and the price tag ($14.99), but those who enjoy playing cards will probably just continue to play cards with their friends. There’s just no reason to go out and spend $15 on a game that, yeah, features 30 card games, but a deck of cards lets you play hundreds of different games. And besides, a lot of the fun of cards is the socializing aspect, which is completely lost in a video game about cards. We have to give Crave props for trying to break the monotony by letting us create our own character and customize our own pad, and we do appreciate the different play areas, but this just doesn’t work as a video game. We’re not entirely sure who the target audience is, but they may be grandmothers…and they’ve got decks of cards. They probably don’t have PS2s.
6/30/2008 Ben Dutka