Thursday, November 15, 2007

VG REVIEW: Eye of Judgement

Sony, for PlayStation 3, rated T for Teen (fantasy violence), $69.99.

Video game publishers have long made attempts to replicate the thrill of your average trading card game within their pixilated realm (“Marvel Trading Card Game,” the “Yu-Gi-Oh” series) but never as ornately or in as complicated a fashion as “Eye of Judgment.”

Unlike previous attempts, which have you utilizing virtual (i.e. nonexistent) cards, “Judgment” uses real, honest-to-goodness laminated trading cards, which you scan into the game using PlayStation 3’s new “Eye” camera.

The bundled package comes not just with the game, but also the camera, a cloth “battle mat” to play on and a starter deck of cards and a booster pack. Hence, the $70 price tag.

If you’re not happy with the cards you get, you also can pick up theme decks (about $15) or more booster packs ($4). Clearly, Sony and Wizards of the Coast (who helped devise the game) are hoping to create their own Pokemon-type cult here.

The game is a relatively entertaining strategy title, though not as addictive as say, “Magic: The Gathering.” Your ultimate goal is to command five squares on a nine-square board, which you do by summoning creatures and having them battle it out against your opponents. As with most fantasy-themed games, you also can summon spells that turn the tide in your favor.

All of this summoning, attacking and spell-casting costs “mana,” which you get only a limited amount of, so you have to be judicious as to what cards you play. Even turning your creatures to the left or right to attack the squares on their side will cost you mana points.

The biggest problem with the game is that the camera element is unnecessary. It’s easier to play with a friend in the room sans any of the electrical components. Watching your little creatures fight one another is amusing, but it also lengthens the game time and doesn’t add too much to the overall concept.

Playing against the computer can be fun, though a single player lacks any compelling campaign mode, which could liven things up considerably.

You can, of course, go online, which has its own set of problems. To avoid cheating, the computer will tell you which cards to draw on your turn. This can be a hassle.

Scanning in general was a hassle for me at times, as the camera had trouble scanning in certain types of cards especially at nighttime. I experimented with a variety of light sources and intensities but still had problems.

Despite all that, the concept and overall execution is strong enough that I’m willing to give the game a hesitant thumbs up. If you’re a fan of trading card games and have the cash (not to mention quality light source) to invest in the title, “Eye of Judgment” offers a unique way to get your geek on.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2007

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