Card games seem to be getting a lot more popular and prevalent in the App Store. The latest game to emerge from the mire is Star Wars Force Collection, from Konami. Is this new iOS card game worthy of the Star Wars name? Or does it give us a bad feeling and lead us to believe that it's a trap?

Virtual card games always seemed a little weird to me, especially when you have to pay for virtual booster packs in order to increase your card count and obtain rare cards. I mean, it's weird enough that in physical card games like Magic the Gathering, fans pay top dollar to get little pieces of cardboard, but asking them to spend their hard-earned cashola on 1's and 0's? Might be going a little overboard.

With that said, my experience with Star Wars Force Collection was an unexpectedly pleasant one that didn't force me to pay a cent. It's a little complicated and takes a little while to get used to, but any trading card game worth its salt will have at least a moderately steep learning curve. The important part here is that you can slog through the tutorial and receive great cards without ever having to spend any real-world money.

Now, Force Collection is a little complicated because of all of the menus and different management options you can utilize, but you can really boil it down to three different parts: single-player quests, multiplayer online battles, and card management.

You can take on quests that loosely follow the events of the movies, starting with A New Hope. You'll go through scenarios with different characters and expend points to move through different stages. Battles are simple and equate to nothing more than tapping on onscreen baddies to cut them down to size. Each kill gets you experience, brings your completion percentage closer to 100%, and spends energy points. Once you're out of energy, you won't be able to advance. Thankfully, energy regenerates at a rate of one point per minute and you'll also level up quite a bit in the beginning of the game, which refills your energy points to max.

Completing a scenario brings you up against a boss battle, in which you can choose to ally with the Dark Side or the Light Side of the Force. These boss battles are pretty easy and task you with hitting the "Attack" button when the charging attack meter hits the red line, resulting in a critical hit. If you've ever played a golf game, then you'll be right at home.

Defeating enemies usually results in items ranging from character cards, stack cards or vehicle blueprints.

Questing is mainly for building up credits and cards to use in battles. You can engage in battles with other players online by pitting your deck against theirs. You'll place your cards on a grid and send them against your opponents'. Cards have different attack ranges and can either hit from a short, medium, or long distance. Arranging your formation properly will help maximize the chances of your surviving an encounter.

The number of cards you can have on the field depends on the maximum points you can spend, since each card has a point cost. Of course, all of the higher level cards cost a lot more points, so you'll have to decide whether you want to focus on having a lot of heavy hitters in order to burn the enemy down quickly or lay out a lot of fodder to take out lesser cards and have your more powerful cards engage bigger threats. Once you defeat your enemy, you'll gain experience and other goodies.

Managing your deck is fairly easy. You can purchase cards from the in-game store, either with credits, special crystals that you can buy with cash, or vouchers than you can receive from completing certain quests or parameters. Once you get your cards, you can change your formation and tool around with the lineup so that you can maximize both your attack and defense scores.

Cards come in three types: characters, stack and vehicles. Character cards are self explanatory and feature a character from the franchise, such as Luke Skywalker, R2-D2 and Obi-Wan Kenobi. These cards are powerful and act as your main force. Stack cards include expendable characters like Stormtroopers and can include multiple cards per slot, thus the term "stack." Finally, vehicle cards are powerful cards that take up multiple slots on the grid and are destroyed upon reaching zero durability. These cards can be crafted and stored in your hangar after collecting all of the necessary blueprint pieces to build them. Building a vehicle takes a while, but it's worth it in the end.

All in all, Star Wars Force Collection is a deep game that any hardcore fan of Star Wars and trading card games can appreciate. There's a lot to do and you're not forced to spend any money. Sure, they shove the fact that you can spend money for more awesome cards, but it's easy to ignore. If you love Star Wars, want something to do for a few minutes at a time during lulls in your day, Force Collection is one of the better trading card game pursuits in the App Store. It's fun, it's free and it's got the Force. You're all clear, kid! Go and get it!


App Store Link: Star Wars Force Collection for iPhone & iPad | By Konami | Price: Free | Version: 1.1.2 | 29.5 MB | Rating 4+

8.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating