On the long list of “ideas you never thought of in your wildest dreams but actually make sense when you see them,” turning Missile Command into a Solitaire-esque card game definitely warrants an entry. Nathan Meunier proved that when he launched (pun semi-intended) Missile Cards on Steam earlier this year, and now it’s made its way to iOS.
Frankly, it feels like it belongs. Not only are touchscreens already home to card games of all kinds, but the simplicity of Missile Cards makes it even more of a natural fit. The action plays out in a 6×7 grid on the left side of the screen, while the cards get played in an area on the right. All actions can be performed by simple taps or drags, and everything is rendered in glorious (to gamers of a certain age, anyway) retro-style visuals, with a driving chiptune soundtrack to boot.
Card games tend to focus on scarcity of resources in some fashion, but Missile Cards is all about scarcity. You never have quite enough weapons, energy to power them or time before comets or nukes rain down on your base, so balancing multiple considerations is the key. A conveyer controls the cards and shows you what’s coming when, including cards you can play for defense and the hazards that threaten you.
Once you play defense cards, they need time to power up before they can be activated, and they need to be strong enough to actually destroy what’s raining down toward your base. Sacrifices can sometimes be made; your sub-bases can take one hit without causing armageddon, and your main base has hit points and might be able to shrug off a comet or two.
The mental gymnastics only get more complicated as you advance, with new options on defense countered by more dangerous hazards. Score chasers will be pleased to know that racking up points can be part of the fun as well, and there are enough missions to provide goals other than mere survival, though that can often be its own reward when things get especially hairy.
Unlike Missile Command, which Meunier says in the write-up “loosely inspired” his game, there’s no sense of urgency caused by having to scramble around before disaster strikes. Indeed, you can take as much time as you need to plan each move, but that doesn’t mean things are any easier on you or that you’ll be able to escape every predicament. You can almost imagine little pixelated people running around in the base making like Bender from Futurama and saying, “Well, we’re boned!”
The only real quibble is that the randomness inherent in any card game seems to really shape your fortunes from time to time here. A bad initial draw can doom you if you have too many hazards show up before your defense cards, and the reverse is also true for rounds where you have plenty of turns to get set for anything. In that respect, Missile Cards can occasionally be too much like solitaire, where you can’t overcome luck with skill, but those instances are more the exception than the rule.
This certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, as it’s easy to imagine some people will think it too simplistic or just not dig the core concept. But the appetite for card games on mobile seems to be unending, and Missile Cards fits the bill for mobile gamers looking for something in that genre that they can play solo and still find a challenge that will provide them with hours of fun.