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Part twin-stick, part CCG, Forced Showdown is a cheery delight

Mana happy returns.

Forced Showdown has the kind of topical genre-blending that should render it a disastrous muddle: a twin-stick shooter that is also a collectible card game? In truth, though, an afternoon's play suggests that the team at BetaDwarf are onto something quite special - and surprisingly easy to get your head around, too.

The setting is that kind of comedy fantasy stuff that northern Europe seems to do so effortlessly. Squint and this could quite easily be a Paradox game. Moment to moment, Forced Showdown is a twin-stick set in cramped but interesting arenas: fight through waves of low-level enemies, and then finally take on a boss.

Here's where the card stuff comes in, however: in between each wave you get to choose a card or two from your deck. Cards come in three flavours: spells, upgrades, and consumables, and they all have a mana cost to boot. If you're at home with Hearthstone you'll be at home here, incidentally, since your mana pool replenishes and grows with each wave, meaning that there's strategy to your card loadout as well as the order in which you use them.

Completing quests gives you gold to spend on new cards, and you can effectively dust cards you don't want. The developers aren't selling gold separately.

This game will live and die by its cards, I suspect, and this is also the hardest aspect to judge over the course of an afternoon of dipping in and out of play. What I can say is that the developers are playing things safe in the early stages, and that feels like the right move. There are health boosts, health top-ups and a number of ways of flaring your basic attacks in the cards I've seen so far, and the consumables category already seems like it's home to some of the most OP one-offs: twin machine gun bots who follow me around for 15 seconds, say, or bomb drones.

Combined with the standard attacks that you're given, which vary between each of the four champions - and along with pets, who, if anything, seem a little too good at whittling away at the enemies in the very early stages - Forced Showdown is chaotic fun built around an interesting strategic core.