I’m quite fond of games that opt for a stylish minimalistic look. When going for an art style, it’s not always necessary to have something completely extravagant – especially for smaller developers that want to focus on a straightforward idea.
Cardful Planning falls into that category, offering a simple, yet intuitive gameplay hook wrapped up in a very simple mostly monochromatic art style. It caught my eye, despite being in a genre that I’m not hugely fond of, so I figured it was worth giving it a shot. With a cheap price point, this could well prove to be a nice budget option for puzzle fans.
So, the question is: is the game any good?
Many thanks to Thalamus Digital for the review code.
A SOLITAIRE-Y HERO
After our rectangular hero’s card-panion gets captured, they set off to rescue them in a world of puzzles and traps. Centred around a central hub room, there are four areas that you need to complete – each representing a different suit. You start each area as a lowly 2, but as you progress through the puzzle rooms you will soon build up your value – up until Ace status, which you’ll acquire after defeating the boss at the end. After collecting all four Aces, there’s one final puzzle gauntlet to overcome that tests all of your skills before you face off against the final boss. It’s a very straightforward setup, but still offers a nice feeling of progression throughout your short journey.
You start off with only the ability to move, which you do so by flipping over to the other side. Whilst seemingly aesthetic, the side you face will determine whether or not you can pick up additional cards that alter the value of your card – as well as being able to interact with the button that opens up the exit. Needless to say, this will factor into into many of the puzzles.
After a brief tutorial, you’ll soon unlock your first suit ability that will enable you to push blocks. This can help you form paths and block incoming missiles; however, since you don’t flip over while pushing, it also allows you to manipulate the way you are facing. Each area explores each suit ability in a number of interesting ways and the puzzle rooms naturally get harder the further you progress – however, a new area will open up in the hub world if you can reach the halfway point, allowing you to retreat and gain an additional power to help you progress. It’s a nice little mechanic to make things easier for those who may be struggling. There are four suit powers in total, and I won’t spoil the function of the others – but by the end you’ll feel pretty overpowered, and they’re all rather fitting for the gameplay style.
The default ‘chill’ mode grants you unlimited lives and is a good way to start out as you won’t feel any pressure whilst learning how to play the game. Some of the earlier puzzles can be a little disheartening with their difficulty, but once you get your head around the mechanics it definitely isn’t too difficult of a puzzle game to beat. Deaths will save your current progress too, meaning you can often brute force your way through if you are having issues. The additional modes challenge you to beat the game either as fast as you can or with the fewest deaths, but they’re still essentially the same but with the additional leaderboards. It’s questionable as to whether these additional modes provide much genuine incentive to replay the game, but given the cheap asking price, it’s nice that they added these extra modes regardless.
Cardful Planning takes a simple concept and pulls it off pretty well. Some of the levels feel a little bit too tough to do without a little bit of brute-forcing, but most of the puzzles are well-thought out for the abilities they test. It may not be the hardest puzzle game, but someone looking for a unique title for a cheap price can’t go far wrong with this cute little title.