In some ways, Easy 8’s You Against Me (Free) is an unwitting argument in favor of going free-to-play. The game is a measly 99 cents, which means you could go to a Dollar Tree, buy a single item (an incredibly uncomfortable roll of toilet paper, perhaps), and have spent more money. And yet, it seems very few people have been willing to download the game. I mean, why would you? Angry Flippin’ Birds 2 (Free) came out the same week and is cheaper than You Against Me AND toilet paper. It’s unfortunate, too, because the main draw of the game is its online multiplayer mode. I’ve been trying to find matches the past few days, but it takes an agonizingly long time to find someone else who had 99 cents to spare.
The rules of the game are pretty simple. You are presented with a board with 25 numbered tiles on it, and your goal is to cover as much of it as possible with your color. You and your opponent are given a random “hand” of numbers, and each turn you play one on the board to turn that number your color. If you manage to get three numbers in a row turned to your color the middle one will be locked in place, Letterpress (Free) style. Each colored number is worth a point, and each locked tile is worth two. Whoever has the most points after you are out of numbers wins.
Where things start to get a bit more complicated is how you draw new cards. You and your opponent each have a pile at the top of the screen, and you need to draw from one after every number placed on the board so your hand stays at five cards. The cards in the draw piles are face up, so you can easily see what’s coming next. However, if you pick the card in your opponent’s draw pile, it will actually flip over and give you a different number. It may seem confusing, but it all makes sense after you play a round. For example, say my draw pile is showing a 7 and the other guy’s is a 14. If I pick the 7, I’ll have a 7 in my hand. Cool! If I pick the 14, though, it could be anything. A lot of the game’s strategy comes from deciding whether you should take the reliable number from your own pile or risk something random from the other guy–even if it’s just to make sure they don’t get the card themselves.
And, well, that’s pretty much it. While there certainly is some strategy involved, it’s not a terribly deep game. You rarely have enough information at your disposal to think very many moves ahead or anything like that (though you can take a peek at the other player’s hand if you want), but that’s okay. It’s a fun idea that I haven’t seen before and it’s executed well. The game’s visual style is flat and pleasant, keeping things suitably simple on screen, and you can switch to some different colors in the settings menu if you want. There aren’t any currencies or upgrades or any of that nonsense getting in the way: it’s just You against Me, and that’s it.
The real draw, then, was always going to be multiplayer. Like any good card game, there’s nothing better than being dealt a great hand, using it intelligently, and wiping that idiotic smirk off your cousin Jamie’s face as he realizes I’m not just a kid anymore I’m a MAN DAMNIT. Wait, what? Ehem. Anyway, that’s where things start getting a bit more disappointing. Since each round only consists of one card played and one card drawn, it can feel agonizingly slow when you have to wait hours or even days for your opponent to go. I have five games going right now over Game Center, and they are all basically dead. And when it is finally my turn on one of them, my excitement usually only lasts about three seconds as I play my single card and realize I’m gonna be waiting another 12 hours to see what card they play. I normally prefer slow, turn-based multiplayer to real time, but in this case I sorta wish I could just sit down and play a five minute game against somebody online all the way through without it lasting two weeks.
As I alluded to earlier, I find myself wondering if the game would be better suited to free-to-play. Don’t get me wrong–the game is well worth its one dollar asking price, but I wish the pool of people to play against was considerably larger. As it is now, it takes forever to find someone to play against and even longer for that game to really get going. I mean, there’s a reason nearly every other quick little turn-based game like this is free. From Disc Drivin’ (Free) and Words with Friends (Free) to Capitals (Free) and Letterpress, these games seemingly have endless hordes of people ready to battle at all hours of the day, and it’s unfortunately a stark contrast to You Against Me.
That’s not to say I don’t like it, though. Not at all. It’s disappointing that the online multiplayer isn’t reaching its full potential (yet?), and the overall package may be a bit too barebones for some, but the core gameplay itself is pretty solid. The AI puts up a decent challenge and there’s a pass and play mode if you have actual real-life friends, so there’s still stuff to do even if you don’t play the Game Center mode. Plus, it’s only a dollar. As long as you’re not dangerously low on toilet paper, You Against Me should be a pretty safe bet.