Card Prime

31.7 KB
4.22 / 5.00
(9 Reviews)
Board Count
26 / 27

Closer Look: Card Prime

Expert programming crams a collectible card game into ZZT!

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Jul 30, 2018
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There's also enough cash to pick up the next card and health upgrade from the shop. Quick Strike is a slightly more potent Ice Spire, dealing 35 damage versus the 30 you'd get from two Spires. For some weird reason the special is listed as "Go again" rather than "Stun", but it's the same either way.


With a deck consisting of Heal Barrier, Quick Strike, and Half-Flood, I'm much better equipped to take on the other body builder fight. Heal Barrier's ability to increase health (without a cap) and not have to worry about retalitory damage adds in a lot of breathing room for being able to withstand the Serpent Slashes.


There's another choice for which card you'd like, and it's not the same set the other body builder had. Darkness Nova is just a straight up 90 damage card with two uses, which should be a very good card, but it's Serpent Slash that's the real winner here. At 70 damage, 6 uses, _and_ a 50% chance to inflict stun, this card will pretty much never leave me deck. It is very easy to just get lucky and win matches by just landing coin flips and stunning every turn.


Except, because I didn't remember my very early attempt where I got stunned to death by it, and the game doesn't let you look at cards you don't have, I wound up making the incorrect choice. Sometimes the player can get cards they turned down earlier from later fights, but I believe this is a one time chance.


Defeating the other body builder gives the player several keys as well, and it put me in card shop territory.


Well, this sounds powerful.


Alas, by this point, it's really not. Serpent Slash/Darkness Nova both outclass it in damage, and battles won't last long enough for poison to be worthwhile anymore.


The white key can access the DEATHRAY. It's a three-star fight, and doesn't look that intimidating.


The three cards are Half (useless), Gaea Punch (40 damage, 50% stun chance), and the newest threat: Deathray. Except I don't think Gaea Punch actually has a stun chance since it hit me and said I was poisoned, but then I didn't get poisoned either.


The player is going to have enough strong cards to deal with this fight and win a damage race, and that's what you're definitely intended to do judging by the Deathray card's stats


Were the game more tactical, this could be a strong card with its ability to ignore defenses and deal 55 damage no matter what. For the player, it's adequate and I'm sure there's a fight or two later on where it could be useful, since 55 damage isn't too bad even if you're not currently taking advantage of getting past a wall.

The game's lack of AI ruins it for the enemy however. I still had Heal Barrier in my deck for that fight, and if the general could have checked for Half/Wall status, and automatically picked Deathray afterwards, things would've been a litle more dicey. Alas, the reality is that there's a 2/3 chance that the general will just waste an attack instead.


Conquering the boulder room also gave the player the two keys to Rito's Tower, so that seems like a good a place as any to go to next.


I switched Half Flood into my deck ages ago, and keep forgetting to switch it out for one of the many significantly more powerful cards. Rito has the same card as well as Quick Strike, making this almost a mirror match.

The new card is Mystic Voice, a healing card that restores a massive 70 HP and gives Half status.


The thing is, with both opponents using low-use cards and constantly halving damage, is that we can't really kill each other.


I win the match by decking the opponent! This is a pretty likely scenario if you don't explicitly build something against it (Deathray would come in handy here).


It's also the only card with broken card art. This stems from the fact that the ♪ character occupies the carriage-return codepoint, so ZZT will never render it in a window, transforming it into a linebreak.


KevEdit however, will gladly let you insert the character.


There's also a new card to purchase from the card shop, Willow Whisp. It is completely forgettable by this point aside from having a lot of uses.


Defeating Rito gives the player the key to the stadium and a nearby NPC explains that by winning there you can get one of the rarest cards in the world.


I finally remember to modify my deck, but only to replace Heal Spectrum with Gaea Punch. Half Flood isn't going anywhere...


But first, there's a factory to explore.


Gaea Punch immediately pays off to the point where I wondered if it was miscoded, as that 50% stun rate landed four times in a row. Two Half Floods (or one Whole Flood) finishes them off.


Toxic Landslide is the reward, and it's another decent damage card with poison attached.


Now it's time to battle in the stadium against whoever this is. Again, I wish there was any sort of characterization here.


Gaea Punch's stuns aren't quite as potent this time around, but they get the job done. Speer keeps using Heal Spectrum which can't outheal the damage I was putting on them, and a single Half Flood finished them off.


After winning in the stadium, the player earns the right to ascend Crystal Mountain and fight the master Vey. There's also a choice of a reward which at least has some explanation of what does what. By actually providing me with information I was able to correctly go with Emerald.


Emerald is the most powerful attack in the game, and is "balanced" by its one time useage. Ruby meanwhile does 100 damage and poisons.


Inside the mountain cave is a woman who stands at the entrance to the final fight with Vey, but there's another branch in the cave to check out first.


Continuity! The general is back (and as the fight at the Deathray is optional, this fight is only available if you've beaten them there), with an even stronger card: Mighty Deathray. It deals 90 damage, and I imagine breaks through Half/Wall status as well. Oddly, the card isn't actually available to the player. Gaea Punch is also rather dangerous since it can stun. This fight is basically hoping that the general uses Half a lot.


But if he doesn't, well.


It's definitely time for a new deck. L-Y-T corresponds to Gaea Punch, Emerald, and Darkness Nova. The plan is to just wail on the general until it's over.


And it most certainly works.


Er... I already have Darkness Nova. This should be where I get Serpent Slash instead!


I finally get Energy Saver, and it's so amazingly outclassed by this point that that whole second general fight was pointless. All that remained is to fight Vey.


The big twist is that this woman we met 30 seconds ago was Vey all along. Appliance goes all out for this final fight. Vey has some very flashy (literally) graphics, and a new battle theme which is a big improvement over having to keep the game muted (but it's still not that great).

My deck is designed to spit out damage, but Vey's outclasses it immensely. Ruby and Emerald inflict a combined 220 damage, and Soul Stunner is an 80 damage auto stun card.


I just couldn't compete.


So instead I just take a card that can give me Wall status and deck her. The end.


It's very disappointing that the final battle is won by doing nothing.


The game doesn't have an end state. If there are any battles you've skipped you can still run around and complete them, but I don't think I missed anything. Despite this, there are still quite a few cards I never obtained, but there are also no fights left. It's a very weird and extremely abrupt ending.


There's still a little bit more to check out though. Firstly, is this debug board which includes a list of every card and where it can be obtained. It's definitely worth checking out in the file viewer for quick reference.


Oh yeah, there's also a 2-Player variant! I have to say I was really excited for this when I first started playing the game. It seemed like the biggest flaw was the lack of AI and playing against another human would drastically change strategy.

Except the problem is Card Prime is so incredibly unbalanced that from the very start you're looking at coming up with a ban list immediately.


The world opens asking for player health, and then for the 3 letter representations of the decks. It would be very easy to just stream ZZT and play online with a friend, but boy are you gonna run into some stale meta.


Here's my I-W-Y deck, consisting of Quick Strike, Soul Stunner, and Emerald. It stuns for 35. Then it stuns for 80. Then it hits for 120. Then you win without player two taking a turn.

If that's a little overpowered, you can replace Quick Strike or Soul Stunner with something like Serpent Slash and make it a coin toss as to whether or not you win on the first turn.

Final Thoughts

That may have been a bit of a bummer for how the game ended, both its single player's lack of a conclusion, and its multiplayer being too much of a mess to really play without putting in a lot of restrictions, but really Card Prime is an incredible game. It's definitely not something ZZT would be expected of being capable of doing, and I was quite surprised to discover that it had so many cards programmed into it. Keep in mind that these battles have to have code for 25 player cards, with animations, and looping background music. It's a massive amount of code to cram onto a single board, and technically, the game is very impressive.

The mechanics themselves are definitely less polished. It feels like there's not often much chance to win in a variety of ways, but instead just rely on brute force, except for one or two fights where stalling the opponent works out better. At a glance, it looks like there's a lot of possibilities, but the more you get into the game, the less the variety of cards available seems to matter.

I complained about the lack of balance in the cards themselves, and part of that is admittedly due to the singe player focus the game simply had to have. Its multiplayer component is a nice idea, but one that just won't work without stimying the steady progress you make in single player. Cards becoming obsolete works in this single player mode since the game is about slowly expanding your cards and being able to defeat stronger opponents.

The lack of an AI is another issue, and one I don't think there would have been room to code an alternative for without cutting several cards to have space for it. A lot of fights will have you either win trivially or get destroyed almost immediately depending on how the dice roll.

While the card engine is obviously the focus of the game, and one that's difficult to really make changes to, there are a lot of smaller issues throughout the game that add up to making things not so pleasant. The overworld is spread out haphazardly, and you'll spend a lot of time trying to find the next fight you should be handling, only to enter a four star battle when there was another three star elsewhere. The graphics and sound are pretty bad. (Although the animations do a good job given what you can do in ZZT.) I feel like things could be improved immensely by just letting the player view card information like on that index board somewhere. It would be great to look at the signs outside of buildings and be told "Okay, the battle here will be against this deck", letting the player prepare rather than hope their current deck will work out.

Card Prime overall bites off more than it can chew, but there's something awe-inspiring about how much it still can manage. It's still quite a lot of fun to play. Appliance should definitely be commended for what he accomlished here, despite the rough edges. After playing it, I'm definitely a firm believer in that this sort of game _can_ work with ZZT, this just isn't that example. Perhaps its sequel fares a little better?

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