Game Reviews

Ayakashi: Ghost Guild

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Ayakashi: Ghost Guild

This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about.

For hundreds of years card games have existed in one guise or another. However, the collectible and strategic card game market didn't take off until Magic: The Gathering arrived on the scene.

Now, in the age of smartphones and tablets, the market has exploded into the digital realm and embraced the freemium model with open arms.

This has, of course, caught the eye of Californian giant Zynga and so it's drummed up its own entry designed to appeal of anime fans across the globe.

First impressions

Having looked forward to a collectible card game that promised "spectacular battles" and pitched itself as a "gorgeous card battle RPG", I was disheartened to see a rather basic and – quite franky – lazy menu system greeting me.

Its use of stock fonts and a layout reminiscent of a late '90s HTML website didn't instill much hope for what was to come. However, it quickly became apparent that all the effort had gone into creating the 100 collectable cards, with their lavish hand-drawn anime characters. They truly are rather beautiful.

Mixing influences from the likes of the Atelier, Disgaea, and BlazBlue series, each card is designed to appeal to fans of both Eastern and Western anime.

Typically, this means that there are plenty of overly buxom ladies wearing only enough clothing to avoid a public indecency order. To contrast this are many others who remain entirely androgynous in appearance, alongside some typically burly males.

All of these incredibly Japanese-y anime stereotypes are spread out across three different daemon types: Phantom, usually containing ghosts of evil spirits; Divina, which contains pure and good spirits of people; and Anima, a peculiar class that is filled with the soul of weaponry.

Using these cards you'll embark on an adventure to become the most powerful ghost agent, clearing the streets of Japan from ghostly goings on and obtaining new daemons in the process. You do this by tapping away to 'investigate' through the linear Story mode, picking up cards and goodies as you go.

You can also wade into Battle mode to fight other players in rather dull and static matches that clearly don't live up to their "spectacular" billing. The rock, paper, scissors mechanic that supposedly underpins each of the card classes also seems to play little to no role in proceedings.

Everything is chosen for you depending on how many total attack and defence units you have available, along with what cards can be played in the allocated space. It may be quick, but it certainly isn't interesting.

3 Days: No money, no problem

Three days in and Ayakashi seems so eager to keep you
playing that it'll throw free gifts your way to ensure you return. Nicely, this means I've not felt the need to spend a single penny so far.

Just playing once a day grants you free gifts, and you also gain a free summon once a day, as well as another during lunchtime. At the end of each chapter you finish you're rewarded with a health-boosting item and a few other goodies that help you through your adventure.

Despite this abundance, it really doesn't take too long to wait for health and attack spirit to refresh, meaning that every 20 minutes or so you can jump right back into the continual tapping. Even then, the wait is usually less as you'll level-up rather frequently and thus gain full health once more.

At this stage the greatest threat to your real-life personal fortune the possible rare cards you could be grabbing, but they're only relevant for the most devoted of players. It's hard to see what benefit owning them could really bring, and Ayakashi isn't eager to tell you either.

Day 7: Money pit

Over the last day or so the well of freebies from Ayakashi began to dry up and, in the process, its shallowness began to make itself evident.

Story progress slows to a crawl as your level rises, meaning instead of playing and levelling up every 30 minutes or so you'll be waiting for over an hour and a half, and even then you probably won't level-up for about another four hours. If you want to continue at the same pace, you'll have to start spending some coin.

However, this comes as no real surprise seeing how well versed Zynga are in the freemium market.

You're eased into thinking it's great value, too, as an inexpensive beginner's pack priced at 50 gold (around 40p) gives you more than enough to let you play for a while. But, once you've made that one-off purchase things can get pricey rather quickly.

This is exactly what Zynga is betting on, too. It's hoping you've been sucked in by the unfinished story, hollow gameplay, and far from spectacular battles to such a degree that you won't be able to resist spending money to keep playing at the same pace.

It's commendable that Zynga has managed to turn something so shallow into an engaging game that can suck you in and keep you playing. If you're prepared to sit and wait between stints then Ayakashi isn't bad thumb-twiddling fun.

However, it takes one seriously addicted or dedicated player to believe there's enough value here to warrant forking out real money for virtual - especially when it really doesn't buy you much.

Ayakashi: Ghost Guild

Fun for the first few days, but you'll eventually find yourself wondering why you would want to spend so much money on rather basic gameplay. Thankfully, if you're patient you can enjoy what's on offer every now and again for free – and that's worth it
Vaughn Highfield
Vaughn Highfield
Quite possibly the tallest man in games, Vaughn has been enamoured with video games from a young age. However, it wasn't until he spent some time writing for the student newspaper that he realised he had a knack for talking people's ears off about his favourite pastime. Since then, he's been forging a path to the career he loves... even if it doesn't love him back.