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Marvel Trading Card Game
Score: 77%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Online)
Genre: Card Games/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
I am what you would call a recovering CCG (Collectible Card Game) addict. What began with a few games of Magic: The Gathering soon exploded into an addiction to nearly every CCG on the market, from big names like Legend of the Five Rings and Star Wars CCG to smaller ones like Rage. While Iíve managed to kick that habit, it was replaced with an even more expensive one, video games. Now those two addictions have managed to combine like some sick Voltron of addiction Ė the latest of which is Marvel Trading Card Game.

Cards feature nice artwork of your favorite characters, locations and powers. Some of the artwork is better than others, but overall they capture the look and feel of a Marvel comic. The table backdrops also feature faded artwork of the same characters. Nicely drawn panel artwork pops up during the single-player Story mode.

Sound is just a series of repeating melodies and effects. Thereís nothing here to get overly excited about, though at the same time it won't ruin the experience.


Gameplay:
Marvel Trading Card Game sticks to the same layout as other CCGs turned video games. You begin with a starter deck and play through matches. With every win you earn new cards to add to your deck, while losses will hopefully provide you with experience and ideas of how to fix your deck so it doesnít happen again. The Marvel Trading Card Game sticks to the same mechanics as the physical card game, which should keep fans happy, though the lack of a really good tutorial may not win any new ones.

The concept behind Marvel TCG is simple; two players attack each other with decks until one runs out of energy points. Each deck is made up of several cards types, the most prominent being Character cards, which make up your main attack force. Each character has a defense and attack numbers, as well as abilities that match the superheroes they represent. Character stats can be enhanced by using Equipment and Location cards. The final type is called Plot Twists and are the equivalent of Interrupts and Instants in Magic: The Gathering. These cards can do anything ranging from additional ability upgrades to causing all kinds of game-altering headaches for your opponent. The thing about Plot Twists is that they can be chained together, causing all kinds of chaos.

Marvel TCG offers two single-player campaigns, Hero and Villain. Both are lengthy and entertaining, though the story is really just there to bounce you between card games. Ad Hoc and Infrastructure multiplayer modes are also available.


Difficulty:
As already mentioned, if you are already familiar with the physical card game, it should not take much to jump right into the game. If youíre not familiar with it, the tutorial isnít going to help much. It is an okay tutorial, though youíd probably be better served just reading the instructions since that is all you are really getting with the tutorial.

The interface is not player friendly either. Fans of the physical card game should not have too much of a problem figuring out how to play, though even theyíll have to muddle through the game interface. The interface is similar to Yu-Gi-Oh!, though it feels crammed -- especially when a lot of cards are put into play. It is really hard to tell which cards are which.

Deck building is a chore, though this is something no CCG turned video game has been able to really get right.


Game Mechanics:
Generally, Marvel Trading Card Game is an interesting game, though some of the card gameís mechanics are complicated not because they need to be, but just because they someone felt they needed to be.

In order to put a character into play, you must first pay a resource cost. Because of this, the early game is pretty slow going Ė though they do pick up with the right deck (and if you know what you are doing). Characters are cast on either the front or back line; where they end up determines their abilities and usefulness in battle. Only one type of a named character can be on the table at any time, so you donít run into a situation where Spider-Man is fighting Spider-Man (though this restriction doesnít seem to be in place in the Marvel comics). If you happen to draw the same character, the extra can be discarded to power-up the version already in play.

In addition, some characters receive special bonuses if they are close to members of the same team. If two members of the same team, like the Avengers or X-Men, are in play they can team up for a special team attack.

Combat is one of the more difficult to understand gameplay elements. Characters can attack and defend in the same turn, which is unique for a CCG. Another odd aspect is how damage is totaled. Rather than just counting the amount of damage that isnít blocked by a defender against your total life points, you instead take those points plus the amount it cost to put that character into play, something that is also unique for CCGs.

Marvel TCG is a faithful translation of the physical card game into video game form. All of the mechanics seem to be in place. However, unless you are up for learning how to play, the mechanics are difficult to learn -- at least if youíre relying on the in-game tutorial. The interface takes time to understand as well. But, if youíre up to it, the ability to play with other players online or have an A.I. opponent to match up against is a good thing.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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