State of Play – WWE SuperCard, Destiny, Desert Golfing, The Golf Club

The hierarchy of hobbies is a wholly subjective and circular construct. Birdwatchers, for example, consider themselves superior to video gamers because of their oneness with nature. Clear evidence, they claim, that twitching trumps Twitch. Rock climbers, however, believe their pursuit knocks the binoculars off amateur ornithology as it’s more adventurous, more athletic. And video gamers think rock climbers beneath them because they face little risk of plummeting hundreds of feet into a ravine and having to hack off one of their own limbs to escape. (In all my years of gaming, the closest I’ve ever come to losing a body part was when one of my Cadbury’s chocolate fingers got stuck down the back of the sofa.)

This recreational rock-paper-scissors continues amongst the video gaming genres as well. First-person shooter fans, RPG patrons and MOBA champions can all make compelling cases for their particular favourites. But, there are two types of titles that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, looks down on with contemptuous superiority: free-to-play games and wrestling games.

WWE SuperCard is a free-to-play wrestling game from Cat Daddy Games. A collectable card game whose combination of sneer-inducing elements means it occupies a sweet spot for mockery few can ever dream of achieving. It’s the Mills & Boon, the Foster & Allan, the Cannon & Ball of video games. And I can’t stop playing it.

WWE SuperCard Image

In terms of complexity, SuperCard lies slightly to the north of Snap with the seemingly impenetrable fortress of Magic: The Gathering a distant speck on the horizon. Think Top Trumps with turnbuckles and you’re basically there.

You assemble a deck of wrestler cards, then pit them against other players’ stables of grapplers; albeit ones under the control of the game itself. Different match types, wrestler attributes, card alignments and booster cards add a tactical gloss to pinning your opponent to the mat. The bouts themselves are laughable semi-real recreations with the cards waddling down an entrance ramp before performing manoeuvres on each other in the ring. The entire spectacle looks like it’s taking place inside the mind of a ten year old boy.

It’s easy to be sniffy about professional wrestling and free-to-play games. On paper, neither idea should work. Wrestling is an all-year-round warning film against excessive steroid use and repeated personal injury that sees a circus troop of muscle heads pretend fighting in contests whose results are arranged in advance. Free-to-play games are soulless sponges built for mild addiction rather than entertainment. Yet both enjoy prosperity because they are designed and sold with a simplicity as ruthless and elegant as that of any über cool Apple device.

Wrestling’s lank mullets and figure-four leg locks are enveloped by a carney sideshow soap opera played out to the pounding guitar riffs and pyrotechnics of a rock concert. The overarching and continuously recycling conflict between good guys and bad focuses on traditional themes like nationality and class that encourage the audience to be active conspirators in creating the drama. The characters are drawn with the broadest stokes and the acting ripe with pumped up emotions. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson may have found success as a serviceable action movie star, but he’s the Daniel Day-Lewis of WWE thespians.

SuperCard is built for precisely the same type of casual obsession. Like other free releases, it’s a game that can be enjoyed after a lobotomy with no drop in player performance. Its fights themselves are perfunctory, predetermined by the wrestlers’ stats and required in interminable repetition. Cat Daddy clearly understands their distinctly limited appeal and focuses instead on the killer hook of the cards themselves. They’re ceaselessly supplied to you through an intravenous rewards drip and innately alluring due to their glitzy facades and increasing rarity. Even the unwanted ones can be fed to other cards to improve their performance in a weird mechanic that’s only a Papa Shango short of being a full-on wrestling ritual sacrifice.

While wrestling will never be the harbinger of a new world order in sports, and free-to-play will never cause the gaming revolution it once threatened, both understand perfectly the warmth and appeal of simple pleasures. Neither strays from its cosy, straightforward entertainment loop, offering constant progress without uncomfortable change, which makes WWE SuperCard a great crossover product. Like it or not, there’s an undeniable excellence of execution here.

Destiny Image

I’m still trying to work out what to make of Destiny. After Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs and Respawn’s Titanfall, Bungie is the latest potential messiah for the new console generation to have its halo tarnished by unrealistic expectations.

Its ambitious space shooter seems to be suffering from serious case of multiple personality disorder. Is it the post-level cap game I’ve been hearing so much about, filled with exotic loot and epic raids, or the actual game I’ve been playing where I wander around in circles for hours on the moon, always finding myself back at the Temple of Scrotums, or whatever the hell it’s called?

I’ve no idea how Destiny was made, but it seems what Bungie has done is hire out the Large Hadron Collider for an afternoon and smash copies of Halo and World of Warcraft into each other at the speed of light. This is a game that is exactly the sum of its parts. The endurance-testing grind of the traditional MMO underpinned with Bungie’s Mercedes-esque controls and art design. Just pootling around you can feel the quality to the underlying craftsmanship.

For me though, Destiny’s biggest problem is one of balance. While the missions seemed to run out of ideas after only a handful of different objectives, the narrative is just getting started. When I finally completed the last story mission, I felt what I should have been presented with wasn’t end credits, but a title card. Still, that’s only to be expected. As any local council will tell you, once you’ve got a traveler camped on your land it can take forever to get them off.

I was planning to end this bit on Destiny with an incredibly weak joke asking whether, if Bungie does make a sequel, it will be called Destiny’s Child? A quick Google, however, reveals I’m about six months late with that one. I’ve decided to leave it in here though, because if there’s one thing you need to get used to in Destiny it’s retreading old ground.

Desert Golfing Image

Finally this time out, I’ve been playing some Desert Golfing. It’s basically Super Stickman Golf meets Lawrence of Arabia and has been getting deserved attention in some quarters for its short and sweet “just one more hole” appeal. I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit, but not as much as The Golf Club, a decidedly more involving, and expensive, proposition that allows you to not only hack your way around 18 holes, but actually build your own courses and share them with other members of the Pringle posse.

The Golf Club Image

Visually, The Golf Club is below par, and not in a good way. The graphics are rough and some of the pop-in flinch-inducing. That said, I really like it for two reasons. First, unlike in EA’s recent golf games where splitting fairways, sinking putts and strolling PGA tournaments quickly becomes automatic, here you’re nothing more than an average amateur. It means you really have to think about how you’re going to approach each hole and execute each shot and the sense of achievement is increased accordingly.

Second, and most importantly, I love building golf courses, a joy I thought lost since the long gone days of Sid Meier’s SimGolf and Golf Resort Tycoon. While the tools here could definitely be more diverse and robust, a variety of different themes from alpine to links are available to create some truly personal and eye-catching efforts using the Greg Norman Course Designer. A much more successful business venture for The Great White Shark than his recent trial run of the Greg Norman Chainsaw Massacre Experience.

WWE SuperCard – Cat Daddy Games – iOS, Android

Destiny – Bungie – PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360

Desert Golfing – Justin Smith – iOS, Android

The Golf Club – HB Studios – PC, Xbox One, PS4

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