Any avid Jay is Games reader will have, at one point or another, paid a visit to game hosting site Kongregate. The site features hundreds of developers, and has a veritable smorgasbord of games. But until now, the folks behind Kongregate had not created a game of their own. Finally, after months of development and a lengthy private beta, the site has thrown its proverbial hat into the ring with Kongai.
Kongai, a multiplayer collectible card game (CCG), blends the lineup of a beat-'em-up fighter with the tactics of a turn-based campaign. This combination makes for a game that will please genre fans and newcomers alike.
You and your three or five character army take on the enemy head-to-head. Turns are divided into two phases. First is the maneuver phase, where players determine what range to fight at, followed by the combat phase, where players select an attack, switch fighters, or rest for a turn. The last team alive wins.
Beneath the basics lies a wealth of strategy. Some attacks work only at close range, while others can only strike from afar. Some characters are resistant to certain types of attacks, while others are especially vulnerable. Knowing when to switch fighters to play off your opponent's weaknesses is essential, but if your enemy predicts a change, they can block you and cause massive damage. Stir into the mix stat-changing buffs and debuffs, and sprinkle in a wide variety of general and class-specific items, and you've got a dense game.
Of course, what would a collectible card game be without collectible cards? You can build your deck through two different methods. Winning online matches gives a chance of earning a new card, while new cards are offered in weekly challenges throughout the user-created games on Kongregate.
Analysis: I'm no stranger to CCGs, although I will admit that my past experience is limited to Yu-Gi-Oh! and the Pokémon trading card game.
One of the most important aspects of any CCG is balance. What fun is a game where one card can destroy everything in its path with no trouble? The game becomes less of a battle and more of an episode of Dragon Ball Z.
Fortunately, Kongai is well balanced, with nary a Blue Eyes White Dragon, Mewtwo, or Goku in sight. David Sirlin is the man behind the game's design and balancing. With enough forethought and planning, any character can defeat any other character.
And forethought and planning are essential qualities in Kongai. Staying one step ahead of your opponent and predicting their moves is critical to surviving. Is he going to switch ranges so he can use his most powerful attack? Cancel their maneuver out and stay where you are. Is she going to change out her fighter for a dark magician? Intercept her and deal massive damage.
Getting inside your opponent's mind is the most valuable skill you can have. Knowing what your enemy is thinking is the key to defeating them. If you've ever had an interest in becoming a psychic, this game will provide adequate testing grounds.
A quickmatch feature places you in a 3- or 5-card battle against a random opponent, and a ranked match system allows you to prove your deck is better than everyone else's. Host a private game against a friend, or practice against the Kong-Bot AI. The only current downside is the connection speed; servers are overwhelmed with players, and you might be occasionally disconnected. But don't let that stop you.
This game is deep. Deeper than most games featured here. Months of planning and consideration have been put into crafting every detail, and it shows in the rich complexities and sheer amount of tactics at hand. But despite the magnitude, even a casual gamer will fall in love with this gem.