App Review: Food Fight iOS

Food Fight title screenFood Fight title screen

As I mentioned in my Core Dump column on iOS board games, Food Fight has finally arrived on the iPad. I’ve been taking it for a spin, and while I really do like the game, there are some hiccups in the implementation that I’m not fond of. Overall, though, if you haven’t gotten to play Food Fight yet, the $3.99 app is still cheaper than the physical board game, and there’s a definite advantage in having the app enforce the rules and do all the math for you during battles.

Since you can read my review of the physical game for how it works, I won’t go into much detail here on how the game itself works, I’ll just focus on the app and what it does and doesn’t do. Read on for the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Food Fight app.

Food Fight menuFood Fight menu

See that little tiny dinner mint in the corner? That means it's your turn.

We’ll start with the menu. Pretty straightforward, and done in the same style as the game artwork, which is a great ’80s-looking cartoon style. Like it? Good, because you’ll be seeing this screen a lot — every time you start the app you’ll have to go through the main menu, even if you’re in the middle of an online game.

The Tutorial will walk you through a bit of the game, but I might recommend reading the Rulebook instead, which is basically copied from the physical rulebook. It’s less interactive than the tutorial, but may give you a better picture of how it all works together. One note: the silly French accent (in print) seems somehow more annoying when you’re trying to learn the game through the tutorial: too many “ze” and “zis” makes it a pain to parse the sentences.

Food Fight card gallery screenFood Fight card gallery screen

Card Gallery screen

The card gallery lets you page through all of the available cards, by meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner), battlefields, snack kings (mascots), condiments, and the Dog cards. It’s a great way to see the artwork up close, and also lets you read the text so you can see how the various cards interact with each other.

The Options just lets you turn music and sound effects on and off, and adjust the game and animation speed. There are funny sound effects when you play the game: the various instants each have a catchphrase they’ll spout when played, as do the snack king mascots. There are also, shall we say, more low-brow noises, like the flatulence when you play the Mean Burrito card.

Finally, there are three ways to play the game: offline, online, and the campaign mode. Also, in each mode you can choose “Draft” or “Boot Camp.” Draft starts each game with the card drafting, where you choose one of the 9 cards you’ve been dealt, keep that, and pass the rest. You continue choosing and passing until you have 9 cards in your hand. Boot Camp just lets you play with the 9 cards you’ve been dealt. It’s a lot faster to start up the game, but can be extremely unbalanced because it just depends on the luck of the draw. I highly recommend playing in Draft mode unless you’re just learning the game for the first time, but as I mentioned in my original review, drafting is a key element in balancing the game.

Food Fight DraftingFood Fight Drafting

Choosing cards to draft — two down, seven to go.

The offline lets you have up to six games at a time, each with 2 to 4 players, human or AI. There are dozens of avatars to choose from, including the snack kings which will be unlocked as you play through the campaign mode. The AI players have three difficulty settings. If you’re playing against a human player, it’s a pass-and-play setup so that you won’t see each other’s cards. It works well enough, though you’ll be going back and forth a lot, since everyone gets to play instants and a battle doesn’t conclude until all players have passed consecutively.

Online play works much better for multiplayer games, in my opinion, because then you can skip the “whose turn is it” screen that hides everyone’s cards in the pass-and-play mode. The multiplayer uses Game Center (same as Ascension, also by Playdek) and if you and your opponents are all online at the same time, it’s almost in real-time. The nature of this game, though, means that there’s a lot of back and forth in the drafting of cards and playing instants, so I suggest playing real-time rather than trying to do asynchronous, simply because it could take forever before you even get to the meat of the game.

My only complaints about the online multiplayer are the same as for Ascension on iOS, and it may simply be because of the way Game Center works: if you’re in another app or your iDevice has powered off, you’ll have to go through the main menu, choose “Play Online,” hit “Game List,” and then pick the current game in order to pick up where you left off. There’s no way to jump from the “It’s your turn” alert directly to the relevant game. Also, Carcassonne makes it pretty easy to jump from one game to another when it’s your turn in multiple games. In Food Fight, you’ll have to back out from the game to the game list and then choose another game. It’s just a little clunkier and requires several taps to get where you’re going. Oh, and when it’s your turn, there’s a little teeny spinning dinner mint in the top corner of the screen (you can see it up on the menu screenshot above). That’s all. It would be nice to have more of an in-game notification, or some sort of audio cue, to tell you when it’s your turn. Basically when you’re all taking turns playing instants, if the other player doesn’t add any cards and just hits “Done,” the “Done” button will appear on your screen — but that’s it. If you have the app open but don’t happen to be watching, you may not notice that everyone is waiting on you.

Food Fight campaign mapFood Fight campaign map

Campaign map, showing various regions each ruled by a snack king.

Campaign mode is one that, of course, isn’t available in the physical game. It includes this all-new artwork of the Food Fight world, with funny names like “Greaseland” (where you’ll find King Bacon) and “Trippen Falls.” In the campaign, you’ll need to win one round for each meal, in order, and then go head-to-head with the reigning snack king in a regular 2-player game to 10 points. In each meal you’ll be up against three AI opponents, and there’s just one battle so you’re not choosing a battlefield. Against the snack king, you’ll have a choice of whatever battlefield cards are played. But the snack king also gets a “home field advantage” — most often, it’s that they’ll get an extra card dealt to them at the end of drafting.

While you can play the game in Boot Camp mode, you’re almost certain to lose with a randomly dealt hand. I tried several times and never won until I switched to Draft mode. After each of the meal battles you win, you’ll get to take a card from your hand and add it to one of the meals: breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Each meal can hold up to 24 cards, and you’ll be able to draw from these later when you go against the final boss, the Disposaler. After you defeat each snack king, you’ll get to put the mascot into one of the three meals as well.

It’s a pretty interesting concept and adds some replay value to the single-player game. I’ve really enjoyed it, and have so far defeated 8 of the 19 snack kings.

Food Fight platingFood Fight plating

"Plating" an army from the 9 cards drafted.

Overall, I really like what they’ve done with the app, particularly making all the artwork match the look and feel of the original game. I think the interface could use a little tweaking to make it more intuitive — and it would be nice if you could confirm your moves before they were locked in. (When you drag an instant onto a troop, it’s effective immediately, and if you made a mistake, you can’t take it back, even if you haven’t hit “Done” yet.) I’m looking forward to playing some more online multiplayer games and battling my way through the snack kings.

Food Fight iOS is $3.99 in the iTunes store.

Wired: Great artwork looks just like the original game; campaign mode adds single-player fun; app does all the tricky math for you.

Tired: Menu system is clunky for getting into ongoing games; would be nice to have better notification when it’s your turn.

Disclosure: GeekDad received a review code for this app.

 

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