Are you ready to d-d-duel?! You might as well get ready, because Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM Pocket is coming your way, courtesy of Konami. This is a quick, more frenetic version of the popular trading card game, boiled down to the bare-bones basics for the iOS crowd. Should you tap into the heart of the cards? Or is this just one big trap card waiting to get you in its clutches?
So, Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM Pocket is a free game. And being a free game with a bunch of cards to collect, you can probably already discern what annoying feature it might have. Did you guess in-app purchases? Because you'd be absolutely correct. But, thankfully, they're not necessary to play Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM Pocket. In fact, they only exist for impatient players who don't want to go through hours upon hours of playing to build up enough fake money to buy virtual booster packs of cards.
So now that we've gotten that slightly large elephant out of the room, let's dive into the game itself!
As I mentioned before, BAM Pocket is a faster-paced version of the trading card game. You can either go through the Story Mode or jump into the Arena to face off against other players. Either way, the way you'll fight is the same, using offensive character cards and spell cards to whittle away at your opponent's life points. The Story Mode does a decent job of introducing you to the world, with a bit of Yugi's help. In fact, it's so succinct that it only takes about three tutorial battles to get you all set up before throwing you out into the world to duel.
On the battlefield, you'll see three channels with four slots each. The first two rows of slots are yours, giving you a total of six available slots. The front row is where you'll place your creature cards and the back row is reserved for spells. Your opponent will also enjoy this setup. A channel on the right side of the screen represents your available cards. Only three will be available at a time, so picking the right ones for your deck is crucial to winning. If you don't like the hand you're dealt, you can shuffle them once per game.
Once you've got your creatures on the field, you can press the BAM button to fight your opponent. Each creature has a power level and a life point level. If a creature goes up against another creature, the one with the lowest power level is destroyed. Any excess power from the victorious creature will be transferred to the opposing player as direct damage to their life points. If their power levels are equal, both creatures die. Each creature has a different amount of power and life points, so it's best to balance your deck accordingly, since all of your creatures' total life points equal your own in battle.
Spell cards are placed in the back row and have special effects when triggered. Some can negate damage, some can heal your life points while others can boost your creatures' power levels. Drawing the right spell cards at the right time can mean the difference between glorious victory and agonizing defeat.
The more successful you are in battles, the more money and cards you gain. You'll also get DP, which I can only assume means "Duel Points," if you do well in a specific node/chapter on the map. These can also be used to buy items, such as booster packs, in the store. Different packs will either cost money or DP, and contain a random assortment of creatures or spells. You're also able to craft your own cards by using different materials and currencies, such as a card currency in lieu of money or DP.
You'll almost always win your battles with enough luck. Just don't expect to breeze through the Story Mode, since each duel costs you a good deal of energy. Once you're out of energy, you won't be able to take on any other duelists. But this is a non-issue, since by the time you get through enough battles, you'll want to put it down and wait to play again. By the time you pick up the game to continue your dueling adventure, all of your energy will have regenerated.
Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM Pocket isn't bad, but it's not terribly deep either, at least when it comes to the dueling aspects. A lot of the time, your performance in a duel is based on luck of the draw and how many powerful cards you've included in your deck. Even if you do happen to lose a lot, duels go by so quickly that you can keep playing and eventually find your own strategy for defeating certain duelists.
It may not replace Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 as your go-to for trading card gaming goodness on the iPad, but it's a decent enough game for you to pick up and play every few hours on your iPhone. Just don't expect to get terribly strategic. And don't get addicted enough to actually buy boosters with real money. Remember: tap into the heart of the cards, but don't let them tap into your wallet.