Publisher: ZeMind Games Studio
Game Length: 30 minutes
Most fighting games boil down to one theme: mind games with your opponent. Uncaged: World Fighters is a two player duel card game designed to replicate the bouts and rounds of a Mixed Martial Arts tournament as players take turns attacking and defending using different fighting moves and styles.
Uncaged is even more about the mind games as you must prepare your cards into a single combo ahead of time, while anticipating your opponent’s cards in return. It’s far easier to jump in and play than other fighting games and uses its MMA theme well, though the actual gameplay often comes down to the luck of the draw more than intricate strategy.
Uncaged is played in a series of rounds. Each round both players have a chance to attack and defend twice, using specific attack and defend decks. Players draw a number of cards depending on their stamina, but always a minimum of five. Both players lay five cards face down to set up their combo, and reveal them one at at time, left to right. Attackers are hoping to do as much damage as possible, while defenders can retaliate, but more importantly try to interrupt and break the combo.
Combo breaking is incredibly important. A good portion of the defend cards directly counter certain attack cards, such as Counter Punch and Check Kick. If the defender reveals the right combo breaker card against the appropriate attack card, the entire combo ends before the attacker can do anything else, and the player’s switch roles.
The primary strategy lies in anticipating which cards your opponent has drawn, and where they’re putting them in their combo. You could put an invalid card to fake out your opponent, such as a ground-only Arm Bar while you’re still standing, or save your usual lead-off punches for the end in the hopes that the defender uses their Counter Punch too early.
Unfortunately you must make all these decisions ahead of time, as you’re resigned to your fate once you start revealing cards (with the exception of a single attack and defend card that lets you swap face down cards). Being limited to whichever cards you draw is painful. Once cards are selected you can’t really do anything but reveal them one at a time and hope yours are better than your opponent’s, which sometimes feels like a slightly more involved game of WAR.
Select Your Fighter
The starter set includes four different fighters modeled after different MMA fighting styles, such as jiu-jitsu. I was pleased to see a balanced roster of two men and two women, though some of the fighters’ ability seems way better than others. Henry does extra damage every time he breaks a combo while defending – which happened quite a lot, whereas Catherine merely makes a single defense card slightly better.
I was also disappointed to see that all the characters in the starter set have the same health points and stamina pool. Expansion characters come in different weight classes with different levels of health and stamina, which should create a lot more interesting variety if you’re willing to take the plunge. The ability to add cards and customize your attack and defense decks also seems appealing and would help alleviate a lot of the card-drawing woes I ran into with the starter deck.
My favorite part of the game is actually the art. I was pleasantly surprised to find a game about MMA with such a bright, welcoming art style, not unlike an action-packed Saturday Morning Cartoon. Every single unique card has unique artwork, and they all depict the action on the card in brightly colored detail. For someone that’s wholly unfamiliar with MMA, I was really immersed into the fighting game world while playing Uncaged.
Uncaged: World Fighters has a recommended age of 14+. The game is very easy to jump in and play, and the art style is vibrant and cartoony.
Uncaged’s biggest strength is that it’s incredibly easy to learn and play. It’s a small box dueling card game that effectively showcases its MMA theme in both the rules and art, though gameplay is very dependent on the luck of the draw.