The sun settles over the bloodsoaked battlefield, and Sakyo meditates over the day that just went to night. The naginatas met in fierce clashes with the flesh of horses. Cavalrymen fell to their death by the dozens. Those who broke trough the spears made the battle short with the archers left to fend for themselves. Commanders trying to boost morale have little effect when a katana strikes a neck. Sakyo was but a mere infantryman with an inferior katana, but his life was saved by the Shogun. As his life was about to perish Sakyo received upgrades helping him to his feet, and bringing his skill to new levels. This was a victorious battle, but tomorrow will bring a new challenge. Sakyo lies down on his mat in the tent, and tries to forget about all the blood. The final thought before he falls to sleep is that at least it isn’t his own blood that covers his clothes.
Samurai Bloodshow is a strategy game combining luck, timing and strategic thinking. It is also a card-based game with a lot of strategy before even entering the battlefield. Assembling a suitable deck is vital, as you both have limited cards and limited points. A deck can only consist of a set number of cast points, and the basic cards only cost one point. Initially you only get infantrymen, some light cavalry and the odd archer. As all those cost one point it is easy to set up a deck, but when some more expensive units show up it gets harder to choose.
When you have entered the battlefield you have a number of cards open to you. These can be placed freely, and turn into units on the battlefield. A money counter goes up with time, and allows you to purchase new cards. This means that the cards are available to use. Timing is important, as it is more expensive for each card to only buy one card than buying three cards. Waiting for money to accumulate, or spend what you got to save the situation is the question.
Units are placed along lanes in a battlefield with the enemies approaching from the right. It looks a lot like Plants vs Zombies, but other than that the gameplay isn’t that similar. In PvZ you have all units available, and just have to wait for the money to accumulate. In Samurai Bloodshow you never know which cards will show up, and this gives the gameplay some hints of luck. No enemy is allowed past your lines of defense, as the Commander is completely defenseless. Initial levels in the single player campaign are just about blocking the enemies. Later on it gets much trickier, as enemy units gets more unpredictable and stronger. Moving your units becomes important, and it also costs gold. That means that you might not be able to get as many units in battle, as you focus on moving those already placed. At this point in the game it turns quite frantic and you have to make quick decisions.
The controls are ok for the most part. Tap a unit to show movement options, and drag it to the new position. You can also order units to charge across the battlefield. This is a must at times when enemies spawning monsters are outside the ordinary range of your units. Traps can also be placed to hinder the opponents. At times the controls can be quite fiddly, and imprecise when you need quick movements.
The pace of the campaign battles is really uneven. Each map lasts for 10 waves, and the initial five or so are really slow. You have a double speed button to aid you, but still it feels like a waste of time fighting one or two enemies at a time. For the final two waves the enemies generally come in hordes, and if you forget to turn off the double time you are screwed. That is if you have failed to plan ahead. Still it is impossible to know what lanes the enemy will use, and this is perhaps my biggest concern with the game. Unlike chess you don’t know what pieces or where these pieces are in Samurai Bloodshow. This limits the strategic implications, and luck starts to play a large role.
The game progression is quite good always giving more challenging setups. Still it is all the same over and over again. Sure you can try to use new cards, and strategies but it is still repetitive. No story to break up the progression, and nothing to really strive for. After each battle you get new cards added to your deck, and this is a good thing. The bad thing is that you usually get the same units you already have, and some that you don’t even care to use. You can of course speed up your progress by buying card packs by means of IAP. This hampers the game to me, as you get too strong early on. It also limits the multiplayer aspect of the game.
The presentation is fabulous, and all units move about in a cool animated card kind of fashion. Loads of blood spurts from the necks of enemies, but it doesn´t feel like an attempt to chase gore points. I am a huge fan of everything from Ancient Japan, and the art style is perfect. Everything is done in the same style with calligraphy, ancient scrolls and an old school color palette. The music is also perfect martial Japanese music with some modern touches.
Samurai Bloodshow is a fun new entry in the strategy game genre. It is more casual than ordinary war strategy games, but still more hardcore than for example Plants vs. Zombies. A cool unique presentation paired with weeks of gameplay caters for value. The game gets quite repetitive, and the IAP card packs is tempting but spoils the game’s challenge. It has fluctuated a lot in price since release, and I recommend you to wait for a price drop before you get it. It is definitely a worthy addition to your collection whether you are into strategy games, or deck building games.
SAMURAI BLOODSHOW : les vagues blanches, les nuages rouges $4.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Sega Corporation