Review: 7 Card Games (DSiWare)

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7 Card Games makes no effort to disguise its simplicity. It is what it is: seven card games, no more, no less. There’s no fluff, no extras and no incentive to play beyond the desire for quick, cheap, 500 Point fun. You might enjoy it while waiting for the train or before bedtime, but beyond that this game holds very little potential for lasting entertainment.

Going back to “no more, no less”, disappointingly, this actually contains but five unique games, two of the seven being variations on other games included in the package. The full collection comprises two versions of Poker (Texas and Omaha Hold 'em), two of Klondike (one- and three-card draw) as well as Freecell, Hearts and Black Jack. It's not a bad line-up, but naturally there are some baffling exclusions: Spades would have been an easy inclusion as it's very similar to Hearts, but you won't find it here.

You begin by creating your profile, inputting your name and choosing from a catalogue of nine generic, static avatars. This is all largely useless as the game does not track your wins, losses or, what might have immensely helped it, your wallet: gambling simulators in which your earnings carry over from one table to the next have about them a sense of permanence and a deeper illusion that you are actually at a casino. Instead, you'll just feel like you're playing a discount CD-Rom. You start each betting game with 1500 units of unidentified currency and can place a wager of your choice within this limit, but this feels largely pointless when playing against no one and with fake, self-replenishing money. Are you on a losing streak? Just start over! In a game about gambling, these stakes are extremely low.

A note on the generic tone – while it could pop a lot more than it does, its simple, basic quality makes it very easy to enjoy the card games for what they are. Bells and whistles could get in the way, and something must be said for cerasus.media's choosing the simple route. Except Poker, progress moves quickly and smoothly, and the fun subtly builds instead of trying too hard and failing. On the other hand, one area that does not benefit from simplicity is the soundtrack: you'll find yourself muting even the most charming of its casino-evoking tracks after hearing them ad nauseum. Conversely, this relative lack of personality could easily have been moulded into a more authentic casino atmosphere: a few sound bites for your dealer or competitors or, once more, a permanent wallet would have accomplished this. 7 Card Games seems content on settling for less, which is fine, but a few of these simple modifications could have done wonders for it.

It would be a waste of time to explain each game here, as you will probably know whether or not you like them before you begin. Most of these are far less fun against computer opponents than real people, but the former is your only option. It’s difficult to recreate the atmosphere of a human to human game of Poker, and online capabilities would be extremely welcome here. The inclusion of this feature could have tipped the scales toward a recommendation: it’s simply no fun to play against these bland CPU opponents as there are no noticeable variations between their playing styles or personalities. All of the little things that make Poker the classic game that it is – bluffing, attempting to decipher other players’ approaches and so on – are removed from this experience and the result is tedium.

The game gives you the option to vary the number of competitors and thus alter your strategy, but you'll probably be too disinterested to form one in the first place. In this basically shallow experience, taking the time to invest a great deal of intellectual effort will seem wasteful except to the biggest of gambling fans. If you reduce the opponent count to its minimum you may be able to eke out some entertainment value, as it means less time spent waiting for your turn, but if you’re a big enough Poker nut to do so, you probably would prefer to go online and play against actual people.

Hearts is less dependent on placing strategic bets and outsmarting your competitors and suffers less from this limitation, but online capability would be a definite improvement. Playing against computerised competitors can actually be fun in this game. Black Jack falls somewhere in the middle – yes, a multiplayer option would be a definite improvement, but it's much easier to have a good time alone here than in Poker.

Klondike (known to most as Solitaire), is as fun as it's ever been. You can't go wrong with Klondike. As most cell phones and personal computers come standard with it, however, it may not be much of a selling point for you. Freecell, a very similar game, is also quite enjoyable round after round.

For Klondike, Freecell and to a lesser extent Black Jack, trial and error are good methods for those who have never played before to learn. Easy to follow guides are available online for those unfamiliar with Hearts and Poker and relatively tortuous instructions are included with this game. They use phrases like “big blind,” “hole card” and “kicker” with no explanation of what they mean. A more expansive manual, a glossary of terms or perhaps a training mode for beginners would have been extremely helpful, but this game does not provide them. There isn’t even a way to keep a list of the standard Poker combinations on-screen while you play. To access this or any other guides, one must press “Help,” then choose which game they are playing from the instruction manual. Overall, someone who has never played Poker before will be lost without outside assistance.

One more omission that experienced card sharks may find frustrating is the inability to “split” in Black Jack. Most versions of this game will allow players who receive two of the same number or face card to halve their hand, receive two more cards and divide their bet among the new stacks. To remove this is to take away one more level of depth that would have been quite welcome, but instead, 7 Card Games seems content to provide a relatively unremarkable experience.

Finally, a note on the top screen display – the majority of this during Klondike and Freecell is filled by your looming avatar which, as it is unanimated, constantly stares to its left. It's as if it sees something more interesting off-screen than the game below. Inevitably, so will you.

Conclusion

Besides the basic fun of the card games themselves, there's not much going for this simplistic collection. The former can be quite great, however, and it's not hard to get lost in a game of Hearts, Klondike or Freecell. Poker, on the other hand, is completely dull against these CPU opponents. It's a little hit-and-miss and quite generic, but card-loving gamers may want to give it a go.

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