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Ultraman Galaxy

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Ultraman Galaxy

This is Ultraman.

As you can tell, it's a campy yet long-running series of television shows about a gigantic man who helps protect Earth from overgrown lizards and diabolical aliens.

Apparently he does this through a combination of exaggerated poses, overacting, and fighting techniques with silly names - Ultra Headbutt anyone?

It's BFG meets Power Rangers, essentially.

Now there's a free-to-play card game based on the exploits of all of the heroes and villains from the Ultraman universe, a universe which has largely been ignored by Western audiences since its inception in the '70s.

I'm here to wade through the decades of mythology around this Japanese giant and, more importantly, to establish whether or not it's worth downloading onto your iOS or Android device.

First impressions

For a game based on a dumb TV show that's primarily aimed at children, there's a heck of a lot of information to absorb when you go through Ultraman Galaxy's tutorial.

The game is structured like Puzzle & Dragons, in that you set off on a quest to defeat X number of monsters, in short mobile-friendly encounters.

The difference here is that there's no match-three action. Instead, you're playing a game of slots. Line-up enough matching symbols in a line horizontally or diagonally, and you'll strike your foe using either Earth, Fire, Water, or Nature elemental attacks.

Alternatively, you might be lucky and get Team Symbols, at which point all of your team will attack at once, causing massive damage. Or you might restore some life points by getting a couple of Healing symbols.

AP is used to increase the number of winning lines on the slot machine, as well as to hold individual symbols in place to increase your chances of winning. Should you run out of AP, it's game over, and the same is true if you take too much damage from enemies.

You earn experience and level-up as you play, and some defeated enemies drop cards which can be added to your own line-up, or combined with another card to create a single - but more powerful - card.

You can bring a friend with you into battle for assistance, and should you get into a truly dire situation you can use the X2 Multiply button for attacks that deal double damage but consumer twice as much AP.

There's little skill involved in any of this so far, and where the element of luck was present but downplayed in Puzzle & Dragons, here it's front and centre.

I'm not feeling it right now, but there's still plenty of time for Ultraman Galaxy to change that.

Day 3: On in the background

My enthusiasm for Ultraman Galaxy is being drained faster than Dark Mephisto Zwei sucked the life force out of Ren Senjyu in Ultraman Nexus. It's all because of the one feature that drastically streamlines the gameplay: the 'auto' switch.

The beauty of this function is that it allows the battles to play out automatically, removing the monotony of tapping the 'attack' button over and over until you inevitably defeat the enemies before you.

The problem is that you can set your attacks to auto and go and do something completely different while the game plays itself. Once the two minutes of battling are over, you need only tap through a few menus to confirm you'd like to take on another campaign mission, before going through the same process of tactical neglect.

Occasionally you'll run up against an enemy force that will knock out a couple of characters, and perhaps even defeat your entire team. At this point you need only level-up the cards in your team, and you'll breeze through the next round.

None of this is remotely engaging.

I'm aware that most card-battlers require you to merely tap the screen to proceed, but at least your attention is directed towards the screen in, for example, Rage of Bahamut.

Ultraman Galaxy's hands-off approach makes for one of the most passive games in the genre that I've yet experienced.

Day 7: Who cares?

After a week with Ultraman Galaxy, I've pretty much completely checked out. I'm not interested in what the game is offering, and I have no desire to see the rest of the cards on offer.

The issue is still that I can effectively play the game without taking part in it. I don't understand why I should want to keep coming back, particularly since community interaction is a simple case of adding lots of strangers as Friends, and then never speaking or engaging with them again. What's the point?

But, more importantly, I have no particular interest in seeing more of Ultraman Galaxy's cards because I know absolutely nothing about Ultraman. Card-collecting games like this rely to a large extent on affection for a particular set of characters. I - like most people in the West - simply haven't had a chance to get to know these ones.

Yes, Rage of Bahamut doesn't seem to suffer by its lack familiarity, but it makes up for this deficit with spectacularly beautiful art. Ultraman Galaxy just contains photo cut-outs of C-grade actors in cheap costumes that will only mean anything to you if you've seen the show. And if you don't live in Japan, you probably haven't.

There are the usual event-driven quests with the possibility of winning rare cards, but if you're not enthralled by the Ultraman mythos their appeal is minimal.

Ultraman Galaxy is a card-battler with a bit of gambling thrown in. If you're a fan of the franchise on which it's based, you might find something to like, but everyone else needn't bother investigating further.

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Ultraman Galaxy

Grind-filled hands-off gameplay plus a licence with barely any traction in English speaking countries does not a good card battler make
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