Puzzle games it seems can be a dime a dozen. Some can be unique or sometimes inspired by other puzzle games. What is most important is whether or not there is a real challenge in a puzzle game. Where Cards Fall originally released in 2019 is now out for the Nintendo Switch and fits perfectly for a portable console.
Developed by The Game Band, Where Cards Fall can be a fun pick-up and play game that will have you lost for hours, in a good way, after you realize how each puzzle sucks you in for its creativity and challenge.
Where Cards Fall has a unique art style inspired by contemporary artistic movements. This creative direction makes the game stand out from the rest along with its soothing, peaceful music, which I would recommend using headphones for. What brings it all together are the puzzle elements. Honestly, it seems like its “house of cards” puzzle gameplay is disguised as traditional block puzzles that we have seen in many games before. Yet it is charming and visually more appealing than simply pushing and pulling giant blocks around a map.
You have a set stack of cards that you can spread around an area and create a stack of cards to create a platform/house of cards. You can spread the cards to cover a small or large area. Some decks will also create different-shaped houses. The player then uses the environment and cards to reach the exit. There are 50 challenging spatial puzzles that exercise your imagination and strategic thinking skills. Each one is incrementally more difficult than the other. I love the addition of spreading cards to make small or large platforms. It leaves more options to play around with how the level is asking to be completed.
On some puzzles further in, however, I found myself in a trial-and-error phase that lasted 5-10 minutes until I either found the solution or simply used the game’s hint feature. The hint feature is a nice touch since it doesn’t outright give you the answer and instead kind of nudges you to it. A big plus is that it does not penalize your progress at all. Controls are intuitive and custom-developed for both the PC and Switch versions but as the levels get harder, the game will throw some environmental curve balls your way. Sinking platforms for example are involved in some levels. If you place too many platforms in those areas, they sink and restrict access to your next move.
Some levels are serene forest and nature-like environments while others are more abstract or dreamlike. Some levels unfortunately can obscure your view and your character, making it difficult to navigate your cards or character to the proper area. It isn’t a serious and consistent issue, but a nuisance when it does happen. The option to rotate around the level more properly would have solved the problem. The Switch version does give you an option to slightly move the angle a bit to see certain places, but this is more of a band-aid than a cure.
As mentioned, Where Cards Fall is dependent on its gameplay. It is fun and challenging. Its lack of a clear story may leave you wanting more. Many can view stories as being more important than gameplay in order to be more immersive. This game falls short by offering what I feel is “Abstract” storytelling. Each level represents the character’s journey into another memory. After that memory is found, i.e., the exit, it is then met with an event with no dialogue. Each character speaks in some unknown “Sims” like language. Also, each scene is short and uneventful for the most part. It’s just a lot of obscure guessing and watching your awkward character make friends.
I have no idea what the story is and how it develops the way it does. I found it very difficult to focus on every scene since I could not interpret what was going on. So rather than try to understand halfway through the game, I checked out mentally after I completed each level. This gave me no emotional attachment to any characters or story progression. I should emphasize though; it is not a deal-breaker. If you are in it for the story, you may feel very neglected. The core enjoyment of this game is its creative puzzles, environment, and creative mechanics.
I am one of those that use price as a measuring stick of whether it is worth playing when something is lacking. If something lacks important elements I value in a game, I will hope it has a low price so I can overlook its inadequacies. Where Cards Fall for the Nintendo Switch is only $19.99. This is a perfect price for those who love puzzle games and can manage through the story. I very much enjoyed the puzzle elements including the creativity, music, and art style. I believe you will too. Where Cards Fall was released for Nintendo Switch on November 4th, 2021.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Where Cards Fall for the Nintendo Switch provided by The Game Band and Snowman.