Cardpocalypse is a single-player card game from the developers over at Gambrinous that turns a beloved genre on its head with a charming narrative, fun game mechanics, and a unique single-player experience that many wouldn’t expect out of a card-based game. Published by Versus Evil, Cardpocalypse is a unique gaming experience that changes the rules of the game as it's played.
Players will take on the role of 10-year-old Jess alongside her friends that are obsessed with a card game called Mega Mutant Power Pets as they try to covertly enjoy the tabletop adventure after the adults at school banned it! That being said, it’s not easy to enjoy a game in secret when terrifying aspects of the Mega Mutant Power Pets start to come alive and invade the real world. Now it’s time for Jess and her friends to save their school - and the world - from these card-bred foes.
Liana Ruppert from Greenlit Content recently sat down with the team over at Gambrinous to talk about the PC game’s launch to consoles, what inspired such a unique take on the card game genre, and even beloved moments from Cardpocalypse’s hilarious storyline.
Liana: Has there been any changes to the game to prep for the console launch or will it be the same experience that players have already been introduced to?
Gambrinous: It’s pretty much the same experience as our recent launch on other platforms. It’s certainly the same game, but we’ve included a number of fixes, tightened up our controller support, and are working on things like new languages. We’re also working on brand new content which will be ready soon on all platforms!
Liana: What was the inspiration behind Jess as the protagonist?
Gambrinous: Jess is one of my favourite characters to have worked on. We wanted to give the player a particular character to be in Cardpocalypse, not a ‘be anyone’ player character you see in some RPGs. You pick a kind of flavour of Jess through your dialogue choices, sure, but her overall character is defined. Ellen, the lead writer, took inspiration from her childhood as well as stories and anecdotes from all of our childhoods as she wrote Jess. One facet of Jess’ background is that she uses a wheelchair, something you don’t see very often in game protagonists. We deliberately made this a part of her character but not her defining feature, which I think comes across well as you play through the game.
Liana: What are some of your favorite card games to enjoy? Have those influenced Cardpocalypse at all?
Gambrinous: I play a lot of card games for fun and for game research, both on tabletop and digitally. There are a few that stand out as influences for Cardpocalypse. Firstly, going back to the 90s there is the Magic: The Gathering videogame (commonly called ‘Shandalar’) where you wander around playing matches and building decks using Magic cards. It was one of the first times you could play a CCG in a single player environment and I felt we could do with more experiences like that. In terms of card game design the Netrunner card game and Hearthstone are two big influences, personally.
Liana: The dialogue is absolutely hilarious at times, what are some of your favorite moments from developing the game?
Gambrinous: I have never laughed more while making a game than with Cardpocalypse. Ellen and the other writers involved did a superb job of writing true-to-life, charming kids who naturally get into situations that are funny to the player. A couple standout moments for me are when Jess needs to hold a funeral for a classmate’s digital pet and when she is dared to say something nice to Bruce, the class bully.
Liana: What was the driving force behind this RPG card game blend? How was the process throughout developing this game and were there any unique challenges with the two genres?
Gambrinous: When we first started making Cardpocalypse we thought we were making a card game with narrative elements. We soon discovered that we were really making a traditional RPG where the battle & loot systems were replaced with cards. Thinking about the game this way made some decisions much more straightforward for us as we were able to look at other RPGs to sanity check some of our choices.
Liana: Most card games are multiplayer with a social aspect tied to its progression, why choose to make Cardpocalypse single-player only?
Gambrinous: Single-player only was a decision we made right at the beginning. It’s interesting because going against the grain like this opened up many more possibilities for us. Our whole system where the player changes the rules (inspired by board games like Pandemic Legacy) is only possible because we don’t need to worry about multiplayer matches. Similarly with the power level of cards, we didn’t need to maintain balance across the card set. Instead cards you gain late in your playthrough can be much more powerful than early game cards (just like weapons and armour your characters would find in a typical RPG), which is a much more satisfying progression for the player. Compare this with opening random boosters for cards in most CCGs.
Liana: Would you ever open up this game to a multiplayer audience?
Gambrinous: It would definitely be difficult, given how much we leaned into things that were made possible by being single player. One way that I would love to explore would be to make a physical boxed ‘Legacy’ style board game. When you open it up you just have starter decks for each player, but as you play through a campaign together you start gaining new cards, finding stickers, and changing the ruleset together. That would be incredibly fun and still preserve the feeling of Cardpocalypse!
The entertaining universe of Cardpocalypse is currently available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and the Apple Arcade.