I love collectible card games. I love anime art. I love levelling up strange creatures, melding them together to form more powerful entities. I just can't love Zynga's Ayakashi Ghost Guild, or any of the new breed of collector games popping up on mobile devices lately.
The formula followed by Ayakashi and games like it (Marvel War of Heroes, for instance) is quite simple. Capture the players' attention with eye-catching art, and then pummel them to death with ways to pay to unlock more, with minimal effort put towards creating game play on a level higher than the most basic social game.
In Ayakashi the player takes on the role of a ghost agent, a special investigator that can perceive the mystical forces at play in the world. This sounds exciting, but amounts to nothing more than looking at pretty pictures of female anime characters.
The player must investigate disturbances occurring throughout this world and beyond. This also sounds interesting, but the investigating is done by tapping a button, expending one line of resources to fill another in small increments. Complete the line and you can move on to the next line. It's the same formula used in early Zynga Facebook games like Mafia Wars. There is no action in it.
The only truly interactive portion of the game comes with enhancing spirits with other spirits in order to enhance their powers and unlock new skills. Players begin with a basic demon girl, earning more through investigating, utilising the daily free summons the game provides, or by paying money for more chances. The initial launch screen for the game is a wall of special offers, tempting players with the latest bit of art that they have to have.
Players can sacrifice demons and items to a base card, increasing its level in leaps and bounds. This is where the only fun in these games is found... watching the numbers go up when you press a button.
There are battles to fight with those cards, of course, but they are nothing more than a stacking of statistics followed by a comparison. That left image at the top of the post? That's a fight. You do nothing but hit the button to see if you win or lose.
Perhaps the joy here lies in the social aspect of these games. Players can battle each other, losing or winning in-game currency in the process. I've tried several battles against other players' teams -- most of the time I've lost.
So I am disappointed, and lately I've grown wary of downloading games with nice art, just in case they're nothing more than mindless time-sinks with pretty faces.
Is it just me? Am I missing some key feature that unlocks more enjoyment? Is this the next big thing, or just a vile sub-genre that can't die soon enough?