Game Info:

Janken Cards
Developed by: GKT Studios Entertainment
Published by: GKT Studios Entertainment
Released: October 17, 2016
Available on: Windows, Mac
Genre: Card game
ESRB rating: E
Number of players: 1-8 
Price: $4.99

Thank you, GKT Studios Entertainment, for sending us a copy of this game to review!

One of the most widely-known games in the world is rock-paper-scissors. In fact, it is believed that the game originated in China in the 17th Century, and is largely unchanged from that early model. Although we know it as "rock-paper-scissors," its Chinese name is "Jan-ken."

Now in 2016, a company called GKT Studios Entertainment has created their own version. Janken Cards uses the same basic premise of the ancient, popular game, but adds its own twist. 

The video game has two players facing each other, sharing a deck of cards. Between them is a tableau of five columns, each divided into six rows. Each player has a hand of three cards, most of them which bear the familiar symbols of rock, paper or scissors. On his or her turn, the player chooses a card and places it in one of the columns. If the card "defeats" the one it rests upon – for example, if you play a rock on a scissors card – then the earlier card is discarded and that player scores points. If the card doesn't defeat it, then it simply adds to the column. Filling the column with alike cards will count as a column "won" by that player. However, playing the final card on a column with mismatched suits – or removing the last card of a column and exposing the "bomb" card at the top – will give the column to the player's opponent, instead. The game is won by a player either capturing three columns or, if the deck runs out of cards, by having more points than the opponent.

Janken Cards

Strong Points: Interesting variation on rock-paper-scissors; cute avatars
Weak Points: Dull music and sound effects; simplistic AI; numerous typos and bugs
Moral Warnings: Minor language issues

The rock, paper and scissors cards aren't the only ones in the deck. Other cards can be found that do different things, such as hide all the cards on the tableau for a turn, or double the amount of points a player gets that time. These extra action cards add an additional dimension to the game, and clever manipulation can lead to some impressive combos.

Even though there is quite a bit of randomness to the game, there is quite a bit of strategy involved as well. The players need to carefully place their cards in order to keep an edge. Sometimes, if a column is going to be lost, it helps to go ahead and score the points from it anyway. Although the game does seem a bit complicated at first, it gets familiar after a few games, and players can form a coherent strategy to start winning on a fairly consistent basis. Once a good strategy is discovered, though, the computer opponent becomes a bit of a pushover. The AI doesn't typically make mistakes, but I've found that most of the games I lost was due to my own bungling, rather than the skill of the computer. After you begin winning consistently, the game starts to grow dull.

There are three game modes to play: a "quick mode" where you play against a single opponent; an "adventure" mode, which consists of eight games against different opponents, with different decks each time (as well as a greatly reduced turn timer for the last matches – better choose your play quickly!); and a "tournament" mode, where eight players can compete in a single-elimination bracket in order to determine who will be the Janken champion. The "quick" mode allows for two players, while the "tournament" mode permits up to eight. There is no on-line gameplay, and local play is determined through a "hotseat" format. Both players can use the same controller or keyboard to play.

Despite its strengths, the game does suffer from quite a few bugs. For example, in some places the "continue" button is so large that it obscures portions of the game screen. I was awarded Steam achievements that I actually didn't accomplish (like winning adventure mode). The game also is riddled with typos, such as "loosing" a life in Adventure mode or, in the achievements, winning one when you score "10'000" points. Hopefully these will be addressed in future patches.

Janken Cards
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 62%
Gameplay - 10/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 92%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 8/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The graphics in the game are cartoonish, but stiff. The characters have a few panels of idle animations, as well as win and lose poses, but otherwise are simple still pictures. The backgrounds change and the cards move nicely, but the avatars themselves are stiff.

The controls in the game are a little strange, though. I was surprised to find that there is no mouse support. You have to use the arrow keys to navigate through the menus or choose where to play the cards. Selections can be done with the space bar or the enter key. The game wouldn't even acknowledge my Logitech controller, and would only pay attention to my Xbox controller after I specifically instructed it to through the "Options" menu. The second controller worked all right, but it is not possible to customize the keys to your liking.

The music in the game is entirely forgettable and repetitious. At least it isn't annoying. Some of the sound effects can get a bit tedious, though. There are a few voices, but not many – the tutorial isn't voice-acted. Speaking of tutorials, the interactive tutorial isn't terribly helpful. I actually learned more reading through the instruction manual than trying to go through the tutorial.

If you're concerned about any morality issues, you'll find this one to be as safe as they come. One of the decks of cards feature monstrous hands and is referred to as "Helloween," but that was the only language issue to be found. Also, one of the avatars is a green-skinned vampire, but that would be the only undead reference I spotted.

There is potential to this game, and it is certainly an interesting twist to the familiar rock-paper-scissors. But the bugs and typos make it difficult to recommend Janken Cards to others. There is some amusement to be found here, but not a lot. Those who strive to get the 50 hour achievement are probably more patient than I am, because after playing for just two, I felt like playing a different game. Maybe with real cards, instead.


About the Author

J. Todd Cumming

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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