So far, Digital Leisure hasn't done the greatest job of bringing public-domain games to WiiWare or DSiWare. Sudoku Challenge wasn't challenging in quite the right way, and Word Searcher only worked on DSiWare because word searches were meant to be portable to begin with. The interfaces seemed a bit rushed and bare-bones, and the games themselves weren't anything special (if they were playable at all). Now they've hit the DSi Shop with 5-in-1 Solitaire, promising five different Solitaire card games for a paltry 200 points. How does it stack up to its competition, and will you want this as your on-the-go Solitaire 'ware?
This is the exact same game as the WiiWare version, except for some graphical differences and touchscreen controls. 5-in-1 Solitaire is primarily controlled via the stylus and, as mentioned in the game title, there are five different Solitaire games available to play: Klondike, FreeCell, Spider, Golf and Gaps. Tutorials walk you through how to play the type of solitaire in question by having you play out a round under the game's watchful eye. Though at times it may seem that it is asking you to perform an action that would either break the rules of the game or that you'd be better off making a different move, the tutorial will not progress until you've done as it asks (chances are it's trying to prove a point somehow). The text is a little stilted, but the hands-on tutorials are far preferable to plain old dry text any day if you're playing for the very first time. Should you be interested in a little reminder about a particular rule in the game, however, the manual does not include any plain-text instructions, so make sure you pay attention unless you'd like to repeat the tutorials later on to get the information you need.
As for available options, each game has only a few, but they're key for basic solitaire enjoyment. Klondike allows you to choose between drawing one or three cards at once, for example, and Spider allows you to define the number of suits present in the game. All five games allow you to choose whether you'd like to be timed or not, and both Klondike and FreeCell allow you to toggle AutoPlay on or off, which progresses games more quickly by automatically pulling cards to the foundation piles for you. The speed at which AutoPlay pulls cards from the tableau is a bit too fast, however - if you blink after making a move you're liable to be left wondering what just happened to a quarter of your available cards.
The game plays just like you'd expect a solitaire game to play. Klondike, FreeCell, and Spider have you tapping, dragging and dropping your cards around the tableau, but if you're going too fast the game may not quite register your moves properly. Just take it slow and try to be as precise as possible while picking a card to move around, especially if you're trying to pick up a stack of multiple cards. In Golf and Gaps, just tap the card you'd like to move and the game automatically moves it to the waste pile or wherever it needs to be next. If ever you make a mistake, simply press A to undo whatever you've done - and this, more than anything, separates this game from its competition. Touch Solitaire only includes an undo function for Spider Solitaire, not Klondike, but in this game, you may undo up to five of your most recent moves at any time in any of the five available games. Undoing a move counts as another move in and of itself, so you may find yourself with a somewhat inflated move-count at the end of the game, but at least you'll have a better chance of winning the round with the ability to undo mistakes.
The game records the number of moves made as well as your score on the top screen during a game of solitaire, and a running tally of wins and losses, your best score, and your lowest number of moves are all kept under each game's menu. If you lose a game because you run out of moves, it won't be held against you as a loss in your top-screen statistics. Start brings up the pause menu, where you may choose to start a new game, save and quit your game in progress, or quit without saving. You may have one game saved for each of the five different modes of play at any given time.
Graphics-wise, the game seems a tad more polished than Sudoku Challenge! and Word Searcher - there's actually an animation on the title screen, if you can believe it. You can choose from four different decorative styles of cards through the main Options menu, and the cards themselves are easy to read and move around on the tableau. The music is more of the same, an inoffensive looping track based on the music from Word Searcher. It works for background music and won't distract you from your game, unlike the buzzer sound effect that plays every time you tap an option in any menu or try to make a move that is against the rules.
It's another Digital Leisure title, but don't let that turn you off - this collection of solitaire games seems to have received a bit more care and consideration than their other casual offerings. The presentation is better, there are options enough to allow basic customization of your chosen game and the 'undo' feature alone puts this game ahead of Touch Solitaire. The tutorials are a little choppy, but they do a decent job of explaining each of the five available games to the player. For the same 200 Points as the competition, 5-in-1 Solitaire deals a far more satisfying round, so if you happen to be in the market for some solitaire on your DSi, this is the game you want.