A deck-building roguelike with a poker-like twist, Zoeti has a lot of promise.
Zoeti‘s gorgeous 2D visuals are enough alone to grab your attention, but if you’re a fan of games like Slay the Spire, you’ll certainly want to stick around for the combat. In action, it’s clear it has drawn inspiration from Slay the Spire: you can see your enemy’s intent, you gather useful items that give you perks as you play, and if you die, it’s all over. But it has one unique twist up its sleeve: in Zoeti, you play with a standard deck of cards, with each poker hand having a special ability assigned to it.
It actually works very well. Playing a single card can do a minor attack, for example. But have three of a kind, or a flush, and you can unleash powerful moves upon your enemies. As you play, you’ll unlock (and power up) abilities, with you having some control over which ability is assigned to a hand. You’ll want a mixture of offensive and defensive abilities in your deck to truly succeed in Zoeti.
Like other collectible card games, however, much of your success in Zoeti feels down to luck. The items you pick up along the way can make a real difference to your success. An item that grants you extra strength each turn can make you overpowered, for instance, making even the strongest foes powerless against you. But if you’re not so lucky at getting a good stock of useful power-ups, then you’re going to struggle. That’s the whole point, though. Fail, and you simply dust yourself off and try again. Each attempt usually nets some benefit, too, like new cards and abilities unlocked for next time.
There’s some narrative and storybuilding within Zoeti, with characters you meet along the way, and a town with people to chat to between battles. It all helps to flesh out the experience somewhat – and thanks to its beautiful character animations, it’s worth engaging with. But it’s not all entirely necessary, with some of the dialogue being bizarre to say the least. Ultimately, you’re here for the battles, and for the most part they don’t disappoint.
There are some strange, unpolished issues with Zoeti, however. Despite playing with the language set to English, we occasionally get some Chinese text pop up in-game. And the skills and abilities you gather as you play aren’t always very clear. You may do extra damage or gain extra armour while in battle, but might not be sure exactly where the perk’s coming from. It’s not a major issue, but with so many different skills being added to your inventory, it’s hard to keep track of them all.
Despite its niggles, there’s a lot to like about Zoeti: its poker hand twist on typical card-based battler gameplay makes it stand out from the crowd. Add to that its beautiful 2D animation – and a surprisingly excellent soundtrack – and you’ve got a unique roguelike that we can see ourselves returning to again and again. With a bit of polish, it really could be a stand-out title in the genre.