The heroic clash between Critter Crunch and Might & Magic

How Capybara Games is splicing up a DS monster

The heroic clash between Critter Crunch and Might & Magic

Much of the focus at this year's E3 concerned visitor numbers, stand sizes, decibel levels and the number of booth babes. Impressive stuff for sure, but for those of us old and cynical enough to have seen it all before, the point of going to such events is meeting the people behind the games.

To that extent, hooking up with Capybara Games - the Canadian studio best known for the excellent Critter Crunch - was one of my show highlights.

To be honest, though, pre-meet I was less than convinced about its Might & Magic Clash of Heroes for DS, which will be published by Ubisoft.

For one thing, it's a turn-based strategy game on a platform that's about as soft as you can get. For another, it's Might & Magic: a franchise so historic and PC-centric that I expect it to arrive on Ye Olde Floppy Discs. Lots of them obviously.

Getting a heads-up with Capybara's Nathan Vella and Dan Vader, and seeing their enthusiasm for, and the attention they've clearly spend on, the game changed that.

It does take some explaining, however.

The structure is a head-to-head battle between opposing armies. You control your units on the bottom screen of the DS, while your opponent is on top. There are various races and units to experience: more unlock as you play through the game. You can choose what units you want to load into each battle according to your style, too.

The basic move you use to set up your troops is the traditional match-three. As you'd expect, this is ordered by the colour of units. You simply drag any unit that's at the bottom of a column and drop it at the bottom of any other column to make a match - a bit like playing solitaire with a pack of cards.

You have a limited set of moves per turn, and each match-three attack you set up will be triggered in a certain number of moves, which are usually dependent on its power. Cleverly, you can see in how many turns each of your own and your enemy's attacks will be triggered, creating a cat and mouse process of trying to build up big attacks while disrupting your enemy's with quick counters.

However, this is only the foreplay. To reach the climax of victory, you'll have to smash your attacks through the enemy, right to the back line where they'll knock health points off the enemy commander.

It's a great scheme as it appears to offer plenty of tactical depth while keeping everything fluid as one weak column of troops is potentially all you need to overcome to score, or receive, a hit

Of course, there's a lot more detail and subtlety involved. Like in chess, the different types of pieces are important. For example, your core units can be fused into defensive horizontal walls, while using the druid unit will slow down your enemy's attacks.

Vampires will drain HP, while successfully employing your customisable champion units can deal a one attack victory. You can also build up massive combo attacks by linking multiple groups of the same colour. And you have unit deletion options, reinforcements and hero spells to juggle.

Aside from the gameplay, there's a detailed backstory within the Might & Magic universe, which will see you fighting through the five campaigns in Career mode, each of which takes you up to three hours to conquer. Did we mention the Special Battle and the Puzzle mode?

Hence, my only real fear is all this effort is going to be somewhat wasted on the wider DS audience, although there's no reason the game can't find its way onto other platforms. I'd bet on iPhone/iPod touch and PSPgo and possibly one or other of the console download channels would be ideal, but such decisions no doubt lay in the hands of Ubisoft.

Due for release in the August, we’re looking forward to getting our hands on Might & Magic Clash of Heroes.

Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.