Since Slay the Spire, we’ve seen tons of roguelike deck-building games that involve collecting cards, heading into dungeons, and hopefully getting as far as possible or even winning. Arcana of Paradise: The Tower plays with that idea, but pulls back a bit in terms of difficulty and adds puzzle and simulation elements to try and stand apart. While it does succeed, it also means it might be a little too easy and predictable to make runs feel satisfying.
Arcana of Paradise: The Tower begins with a tower, and a handful of children live atop it. Paradise could be at the base of it! Maybe! Or at least it could be better than what lies around them, as things were left in ruin and they barely possess enough bread to keep from starving. However, eventually children will blossom into warriors. At this point, they can be sent as pairs down the tower to try and advance or get resources to rebuild their home at the top and get sustenance to survive. There’s not really too much of a story to things, and an awkward localization means children will make quips that can sometimes sound a bit out of place or awkward.
From the very outset, Arcana of Paradise: The Tower sets players up to succeed and solve puzzles. Each child gets four cards once they pass the threshold and can be used as a warrior. Typically, this means at least one card that can be used to attack, another that could defend or heal, and some supportive. Your starting deck is based upon those eight combined cards. It’s generally best to ensure some of them include at least one healing potion, represented as a watery liquid, and a torch, given both also can solve puzzles that involve lighting campfires, brightening darkened rooms, thawing frozen chests, dousing fires, and such. After your first few runs, you’ll also be able to upgrade to get other cards when you set out, including a bucket that gives you an 80% chance of returning to the top of the tower safely.
When you head into the tower, you can designate the purpose of that run. It could be to acquire bread, which acts as food and a sort of currency, or to make as much progress as possible. The former keeps the children you have that are or aren’t ready to fight alive. You can also spend it at a tree to get blessings to the gods to upgrade resources up top. The latter brings you closer to “paradise,” though it’s probably more likely you’ll find additional children to join your community.
As you go through each Arcana of Paradise: The Tower floor, you’ll go through a handful of events. These can be labeled as things like bosses, campfires, or instances in the same way as Slay the Spire. You’ll also come to a diverging path point, which allows you to choose which three next events you’d rather face. Fighters against enemies involve using the four cards currently dealt to you, with both you and them acting in real-time as you select cards. However, you can get a fresh deal at a push of a button. Defending at the right time can stun an enemy, giving you an opportunity to counter. The hanged man lets you reverse a card to change how it behaves. You can get cards that clutter things up and act as blockers from some events. Also, the very bread you’re collecting could be used to restore yourself instead of bringing them back.
In a way, it can almost feel a little too manageable. The card assortment is fine, but it’s pretty easy to find ones you like best and continually shuffle into you get the right ones for each fight. Puzzle solutions are pretty obvious, and certain cards end up being the answer rather often. (You basically always need a torch.) Disruptor cards aren’t too troublesome. The only time it got to be a challenge is if I happened upon a puzzle “room” that needed a specific card and I couldn’t refresh my hand quickly enough to get it. Even getting bread ceases to be a problem as soon as you get an oven repaired, as you get plenty of it as you descend. So keeping kids at the top of the tower alive doesn’t provide any tension either.
Part of that also stems from Arcana of Paradise: The Tower repeating events very quickly. On my second run into the tower, I already saw an event with a frozen chest and another with a campfire for a hermit from the tutorial run again. (Both of those also used the torch as a solution, even.) It makes things feel like even more of a grind than they need to be.
Arcana of Paradise: The Tower feels like the concept is sound. A roguelike deck builder with more puzzles to it and possibly caring for your current and future party members is a novel idea. However, even with the real-time element forcing you to act quickly, it doesn’t feel like this is a critical affair. There’s a lack of tension that keeps it from feeling like an achievement when you do well, and the recurring events means you’re rarely surprised and already prepared for most things headed your way.
Arcana of Paradise: The Tower is available on the Nintendo Switch and PC.