Prisma Arena: Hope is Stronger than Despair
In a world overwhelmed by despair, hope is desperately needed. In the Prisma Arena, train to be a guardian of Hope, aided by personified emotions to channel your inner light. Though this definitely has allusions to our world, this is the world of Prisma Arena, where prospective Guardians gather to learn the art of prismakata in the city of Beacon.
Prisma Arena is an arena-fighting game for 2-4 players ages 10+, designed by John Fiore and Rory O’Connor, published by Hub Games. A game takes about 30 minutes, although you can enjoy the experience of customizing your character(s) much longer.
The first time you play, you’ll choose a hero character and come up with a name. You’ll also get a locker and a set of stickers to customize your hero for the future.
At the beginning of any game, take two random Mo’kon (one in a 3-4 player game) and get a deck of combo cards (equal parts Strike, Blast, and Move). Every character, whether hero or Mo’kon, has a corresponding special ability card and an action dial. All players place obstacle-walls into the arena and prepare to fight.
How to Play
Each round starts with a decision: the player who currently holds the advantage can go first (and pass advantage to their opponent) or second (and keep advantage to use next round).
Players take turns back and forth, each time taking a single action with a character. Perform a Blast (ranged hit), Strike (melee hit), or Move – or use Combo cards to chain effects together. Keep track of actions by turning “action dial” corresponding to that character. Each character may only take actions once in a round.
Mo’kon have special abilities that fit very cleverly with the emotion they personify, such as “Lash Out” and “Hug”. More on this later.
Bouncing and Scoring
If a character takes damage that fills their hit gauge, they are bounced from the arena. Put the standee onto the corresponding Action Dial; on its next action, it can re-enter the arena on a starting space.
Other players score points based on the damage tokens they had placed on that character’s hit tracker.
Ending a Game and Leveling Up
The game ends once at least one player has scored 20 points (or more) at the end of a round; or if a team has scored at least 13 points.
Flip over your character card and track the Prisma Points you earned on your training log. You’ll always earn two points just for playing!
When you fill a row on your training log, you’ll level up, giving your Hero access to Prisma Powers – and snazzy new uniforms.
Reach Level Four to attain the tile of Prismakata Guardian. On your way, you’ll gain Prisma Powers (special abilities that are always active). Are you prepared to defend the world against Despair?
Prisma Arena is one of the most kid-friendly fighting games we’ve ever seen. Characters never die, instead they’re simply bounced – and may immediately return to the arena on their next turn. Hits are for points (awarded when a character is bounced), not to eliminate rivals. It’s better to think of the game like a training arena, where heroes spar to sharpen their skills.
Strengthening those skills happens both through learning the game (and your opponents’ strategy), but also through the Prisma Powers you can attain as you level up.
The fighting itself is wonderfully straightforward. Move and Blast both use a character’s stated Range. Strike requires two characters to be touching (with a Grapple effect if they get too close). Attacking Mo’kon do two damage when using Strike and Blast, Heroes do three damage. Combo cards and Prisma Powers sometimes change the range or damage, but only in minor ways.
Sometimes fights are a slug-fest, sometimes characters dance around each other. Either way, players can play the way they choose. Games with more than two players can be a team game or a free-for-all: just make sure you agree before you start playing!
As in video games, leveling up is an attractive part of Prisma Arena, and it encourages you to keep playing. Attaining a new level unlocks a new uniform and increasingly powerful Prisma Powers.
In keeping with the “training” theme of Prisma Arena, you’ll always be making your character better, even if you’re not winning. Every game played gives two Prisma Points, with one additional point if you (or your team) crosses a point threshold before the end of a game.
Because of this, even players with very poor strategy will gain rewards from playing again.
In addition, dueling players always have the option to play at the same level by setting aside higher-level Prisma Powers, or the higher level player can start with damage on their hero to negate some of their advantage.
Our kids loved the ability to “dress up” their heroes with re-stickable stickers. And it’s not just uniforms, either! Hairstyles, facial expressions, and accessories can be changed over and over, then stored in your “locker” until they’re used again.
Once your hero is at least level 1, you have an opportunity to earn a new Prisma Power with each game. You can only use powers that add up to your level in any given game, but you can earn powers even when you’re not ready to use them. Build your stockpile (about twice as many powers as you could use at once), and give your hero flexibility to meet any challenge.
With multiple kids who tend to be possessive of their heroes, the “locker” system kept everything in order. At the beginning of a play session, each player simply grabs their labeled stuff and doesn’t need to worry about anyone else’s. And unlike other customizable battle games, there’s nothing additional to buy. Everything you need to make your hero your own is in the box from the start.
If you have a visiting player, there’s even a system in place to let them use a “Guest Hero”. They get a simplified card and get to borrow a hero standee. No fighting over who has to give up a hero to let a friend join in!
We love the theme of Prisma Arena. It shines in a sea of dark, violent fighting games to make a game that’s wholesome while still being incredibly fun.
Using all kinds of emotions to fight back despair is a hopeful theme. As a parent, I was surprised that conversations about my kids’ emotions came up naturally as we used the various Mo’kon and talked about how their powers worked. We never expected so much out of Prisma Arena outside the actual arena battle game itself, but even those meta game experiences and conversations left us with memories to cherish.
And in these dark times, who couldn’t use some hope? So venture forth and become a novice of Prismakata.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Prisma Arena from Hub Games for this review.
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Age Range: 10+ (we say 8+)
Number of Players: 2-4
Playtime: 30-60 minutes