When Sony Pictures Television announced a free-to-play title for iOS and Android, the blackjack card game with a loose roleplaying story called Suits & Swords was not what was expected. This is the company that built Seinfeld and Breaking Bad, having household names like Jeopardy under its wing. In this casual feature, a man named Black Jack plays the game of his title against a set of foes that, for some reason, indulge in this pleasantry. That’s the level of originality here. It’s masked just enough to not be a blatant hook towards teen gambling addiction, but that doesn’t make it any less gross.
In the game, the hero gets power from playing blackjack, which is a numbers game where the goal is to get to 21. Colorful panels with drawn characters and simple backgrounds make the cartoon arena for this charade. Each person has a few rudimentary articulated animations and Jack (or is it Black?) can alter in appearance through newly found equipment.
Oh yes; on the surface, this looks almost like a roleplaying game (RPG) with a card model, which is also used in a PC game called Runespell: Overture. Unlike its peer, however, Suits & Swords only adapts its face value. Inside, all that really matters is the card game in near pure form. Still, to its credit, it does allow building up a set of skills; there’s equipment loot and so on. These are placed upon the character where possible or purchased through the game’s monetization scheme.
As fights make up most of the game, the breakdown is always the same. Cards are first dealt to the player, which has to stop at 21 or the closest to it. Then, the opponent tries to do the same. Those closest to 21, without going over, then strike a blow, unless both are tied; then nothing happens. To give an inkling of depth, it’s possible to sporadically use magic charges to alter the outcome of the number. For instance, should a number be close to 21, it’s possible to perform a spell and either add or subtract a certain amount.
Gambling further on the regular model, some hands allow for splitting up cards in two separate chances, for an additional blow. Double potency can be achieved with others, which hits a lot harder when successful.
Anything else is just an endless circus of playing blackjack. Each node, a new and more powerful enemy takes the stage and it’s time to gamble to defeat it. Hit, strike and repeat. Should that fail, it’s off to the store to make sure that nasty losing feeling doesn’t come back, by purchasing items. Several stages further, it’s back to square one.
Don’t be fooled by its giddy presence, obfuscated with a veil of RPG elements; Suits & Swords wants to make sure its users fall for the gambling subterfuge. It’s a free download for a reason; not because it has to compete against other card games, but to give the first taste that leads to a craving for more. It’s easy, it’s accessible and it’s not 100% blackjack. That’s just insidious enough to work. Maybe it has some connection to Breaking Bad, after all.