The time has come for blackjack to take its place among solitaire and Texas Hold 'Em as a card game that can stand alone on the DSiWare service. The objective, as the name gives away, is to get as close to 21 as possible in card value without going over. We've already seen a couple versions of the game in two slightly lacklustre compilations, 7 Card Games and Clubhouse Games Express: Card Classics, but is it worthy of its very own solo release?
You begin 21: Blackjack with 1000 dollars and can place bets against the house in amounts as low as one dollar and as high as 500. There's an array of options to modify the rules and how much the dealer pays out when you win, which offers a little variety to keep things fresh. The most notable of these is whether the dealer hits or stands on a hand totalling 17 if he has an eleven-valued ace. When this is enabled, the game is much more simple and you will find yourself winning more often. When it's disabled, the dealer will stand on any 17 and leave the hard decisions to the player. Other options include how many decks to use, which increases the amount of time between shuffling, and how many times the player is allowed to split their hand.
The game tracks your statistics in several ways, such as the amount of money you've won and lost, how many hands you've played, the number of times you've won with a blackjack, and a few other miscellaneous stats. This would be pretty cool, as we all like to know how we're doing in a game such as this, but it only tracks the stats from your current game. If you should ever go bankrupt, you're forced to reset all your stats. This is really annoying and is definitely a letdown. To make things worse, you're forced to reset your stats at the very moment you lose, which prevents you from viewing the numbers from your previous attempt before starting all over.
Along with the many options to change the rules of the game, there's also some choices available when it comes to how it looks and sounds. You can select a colour for the tablecloth on which the cards are dealt as well as the design of the card backs. There's nothing quirky or fun about these choices, however, and most people will likely opt to keep the basic card design rather than changing it to the available snowflake or flower themes. You can also pick between a few casino-themed background loops.
There's a notable lack of multiplayer in 21: Blackjack, and while the competition is really between the player and the dealer, it still would’ve added another dimension. While it still would have been fun to let you include your friends (let's face it, a main factor of blackjack is gambling), it doesn't detract from the game too much.
The nice variety of options sets this apart from the other available versions of blackjack on DSiWare. It's a decent iteration of the card game classic, and if you're a big fan, this release is probably right for you, though it's unfortunate that your stats are only tracked until you go bankrupt and they are completely reset. If a bit of solo gambling fun is your style and you enjoy betting against your DSi, this makes for a decent experience.