In writing, Seanbaby has been one of my biggest inspirations. A long time ago, I always looked forward to his “Rest of the Crap” column in EGM, and would read them out loud to my mother while gripping my sides to prevent them from splitting. He also once imparted advice in an article that has resonated with me to this day. He said:
Whether you want to design levels, beta test an MMORPG, or write game reviews, go ahead and do it. If you’re any good, those who pay people for stuff like that will find you.Sean “Seanbaby” Reiley
And now, here I am, writing a blog, by myself, for no money. Those people who pay have yet to find me, but I’m putting myself out there in hopes that Seanbaby’s advice is on the mark.
Abruptly changing gears: I suck at math. As embarrassing as it is to say, the only high school subject I ever flunked was math. I just never quite got the hang of trigonometry, and it has since been the bane of my existence. I’ll stick to writing, and leave the math up to the mathematicians.
So, Seanbaby has gone and made a game about math. I’ve never been so conflicted in all my years. It’s free, but somehow I’ve put it off trying it out until now. What will win out; my Seanbaby fangirlism, or my deep anxiety towards math?
Calculords is a game that mixes the fun of card battling with the unspeakable horrors of math. It’s free, so you could go play it now and save me having to explain it, but I’ll do my best to explain it anyway.
It’s an attack and defense game. You have three lanes that you fill with cards played from your hand. Each card has a number value on it, and in order to play the card you need to calculate that amount using the number cards you’re dealt each turn. Once you’ve used all the numbers you can to play all the cards you’re able to, your forces then advance on the enemy and attack anything within range. The goal is to push through to the enemy’s side to attack them directly. Whoever runs out of HP first, loses.
That’s the basics of it. You’re encouraged to use up all your cards in a single turn. Clearing your number cards deals you another hand of digits to play further cards, and clearing both sets of cards nets you bonus/experience points.
There are three main types of cards; attack cards, push cards, and modifiers. The Attack cards strictly do damage. The push cards will move enemy cards back when your group touches them, which can also be used to destroy enemy units if you get their backs up against the wall. Finally, the modifiers will either damage enemies, summon groups of cards, or buff your own units. It may sound somewhat complicated, but things are introduced slowly, so it’s not too difficult to pick up.
STARDOG! STARDOG STARDOG! STAAARDOG!
There’s not much plot to the game. The evil Hate Bit has destroyed the earth, and it’s up to you, the last Star Nerd, to get revenge. In order to do so, you must battle through a series of progressively harder opponents, before you reach the bad dude himself.
The graphics are done in your typical indie pixel art, and the game opens with a faux-broken English story introduction shown in the form of an NES game manual. The presentation doesn’t leave much of an impact, but it works for what it needs to do.
The foes you do battle with feature a wide variety of attitudes, and each of them is fun in their own way. The dialogue is all done by Seanbaby, so it retains his roguish humour, though a lot of his more offensive proclivities have been toned down. Enemies still sling insults your way, tell you that math is for girls, and make sometimes lewd comments towards you, but nothing comes across as too edgy.
ADD, SUBTRACT, MULTIPLY, AND CONQUER
As I mentioned in the preamble, I suck at math. But while I had difficulty with the first couple of encounters, I soon began to find my footing and was dominating towards the end; a combination of better cards and better math.
You learn how to manipulate the numbers better, adding, subtracting, and multiplying number to get that one elusive prime number. I began to prioritize clearing my number cards first, which would open up another set of number cards and let me fill lanes faster. I’d remember that if I wanted to deploy a tank that required a calculation of 72, I’d need to multiply 9 times 8.
Oh no! I learned stuff, didn’t I? This is horrible, I’ve even learned to appreciate what a prime number is. I’ve learned how to smash numbers together to get bigger numbers and how to eliminate unneeded digits through careful planning and clever arithmetic. This is awful!
THOSE WHO PAY
By the end of the game, I had built a deck that focused on tanks, because hell yes, tanks! My strategy devolved pretty clearly to deploying massive numbers of units into a single lane, then taking out my opponent with one barrage. I’m honestly not certain if I just stumbled on the perfect strategy, or if I only found the one that works for me and my cards.
Either way, it allowed me to play through without needing to spend much money.
Speaking of which, Calculords is “free.” You can play the entire game without needing to buy anything, and the game has obviously been designed to make that a viable option, but you also have the ability to buy a few upgrades. There are a few packs of special cards available, a mini-expansion, and a bonus that gives you an extra card every time you complete a level. In total, I spent maybe $10, buying the bonus, the expansion, and one pack of cards. I don’t feel I needed to, but I do feel like I got my money’s worth.
THE LAST STAR NERD
If I have one worthwhile complaint about Calculords, it’s that if you want to build a unique deck and level up your star nerd, you have to battle each of the bosses repeatedly. I can’t say how many times I thrashed Fancybot, but the guy didn’t deserve that much abuse. Yet in order to get the type of hand I wanted, I needed to demolish him, and others, over and over again. It’s fine, the gameplay holds it up, but it can be repetitive.
Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed Calculords. It’s a great game to pick up when you have a few minutes and want to fill them by crunching numbers. Which, I mean, is never a thought I had previously, but somehow Calculords made math fun. Wait, what am I saying? I suddenly feel sick to my stomach.
Also, it’s free. So you might as well check it out. Maybe you too will discover a disgusting appreciation for numbers.
This review was conducted on an iPod Touch. I can’t remember the generation. The game is free, but the author spent, like, ten Canadian loonies on it.