We’ve all had those childish daydreams, which often tend to spill over into pub chat: I wonder what would win in a fight – a tiger or a lion? How about a rhino versus a hippo?

Of course, such titanic clashes rarely happen – unlike humans, members of the animal kingdom usually know not to bite off more than they can chew. Few animals will enter into a confrontation unless the odds are firmly stacked in their favour.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, however, and the animals of Everlands find themselves pitted into a beastly war. A mysterious 'black rage' is turning ram against sheep and kiwi against beaver.

You control a growing rabble of beasties as they make their way across the landscape looking for clues as to the cause.

Wild thing

That’s the story, anyway. In practical terms, this is just an excuse for an elaborate game of animal top trumps, as you take it in turns with your enemy to lay cards down on a game board.

The animal-themed cards at your disposal are hexagon shaped, with each creature boasting the ability to ‘attack’ when certain sides of their card come into contact with opposing cards.

In addition to these attack properties, each animal has its own unique ability that neatly mirrors its real life attributes. For example, snakes get to attack first (already placed cards usually have the advantage), bears become more powerful when wounded, and rams are impervious to head-on attacks.

It’s a sign of the thought that’s been poured into Everlands’s deceptively complex battle system, where every move warrants a protracted period of contemplation.

You make my heart sing

Indeed, so finely poised is the system that you’ll often find the battle going against you at the first attempt, prompting a swift restart once you understand the role a new opposing creature will play in the battle. Such things are often impossible to pre-empt, which is slightly frustrating.

Another arguable weak point is the translation of the story, which is delivered in an entertaining blend of flowery and broken English (sample quote: “Non hesitant to intervene, Snake hasted to help”). I actually found this gung-ho approach to the English language charming, and the writers manage to paint an evocative picture with their, shall we say, unorthodox choice of words.

Even the apparent simplicity and repetitiousness of the game fail to really drag it down, because the system at its heart is just so absorbing.

Everlands’s arrival on the Android Market comes like a lion attack – wholly unexpected but devastatingly effective.