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South Park: Phone Destroyer

South Park: Phone Destroyer

The Canadian Devil made them do it.

South Park: Phone Destroyer is a collectable card game that offers some light tactical tower defense-esque mechanics as the kids of the quiet mountain town play their various dress-up games, everything from Gizmo Ike (which may be the cutest thing you'll ever see) to Choir Boy Butters (he's deadly) and Sheriff Cartman (a gun-touting tank). There is some brilliant writing and imaginary cosplay creations and the game just oozes of top-notch production values. Very much in the vein of The Stick of Truth and The Fractured but Whole, you are the new kid and it seems you're being used in a scheme of Cartman's as you'd expect.

The game offers solo campaign missions ranging from different themes from the old west to pirates, fantasy, and sci-fi. Oh, and there's religion thrown in there for good measure. The missions see you play cards within your zone of control, there are ranged units you'll want to protect, tank units (like Sheriff Cartman or Officer Barbrady), damage dealers, and rogue types (typically tiny kids like Ike and Sally). There's a nice paper-rock-scissors idea of who to use for what purpose, but it's a bit more complex thanks to special abilities and bonuses (some units like Alien Clyde do poison damage, for example). It's really a well-crafted system and win or lose you'll always know why it played out the way it did.

South Park: Phone DestroyerSouth Park: Phone Destroyer

As you'd expect in a card game the monetisation here speaks to your wish to build your deck and improve your chances in PvP. Clearly, a better deck will win most matches, but not all, and there's also matchmaking in place to make it less punishing on new players (you typically face opponents of similar level and skill, and we've both won and lost to opponents of higher and lower rank). Another thing that helps ease the grind is teams where you can gain bonus coins by donating cards and requesting ones you need (for leveling up purposes). It's not a terrible system overall, but this is a game that's going to be difficult to play longterm if you don't plan on investing some money to build your deck.

South Park has been poking fun at things for a couple of decades and naturally, some of their material contradicts older material, but you have to wonder if South Park: Phone Destroyer doesn't take the cake. Back in season 18, there was an episode called "Freemium isn't Free" where Stan is addicted to a mobile game, and as it turns out it was actually created by the Canadian Devil. Now, it's not like a game like South Park: The Fractured but Whole is without microtransactions, and on mobile these days you pretty much don't have a choice but to go free-to-play. Yet it somehow is all the more troubling when the disclaimer for Phone Destroyer says it 'should not be played by anyone'. That joke isn't funny anymore.

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We really don't mind microtransactions all that much in this sort of game. But when it's combined with a hard to overview system of upgrades and currencies, along with "special offers" that are timed such that earning enough premium currency to buy said special packs by playing is completely unreasonable, it comes across as predatory. The cost of buying single packs is also relatively high. The slow grind to earn premium currency, the fact that you can't farm packs via PvP without resetting a timer (using premium currency, of course), makes what could have been a funny joke and mechanic such as "the great play wall of China" where you have to win PvP matches to progress in the solo campaign sound hollow. There may not be paywalls here, but there sure is a rather hefty amount of friction and grind.

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South Park: Phone Destroyer
South Park: Phone DestroyerSouth Park: Phone Destroyer
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