Ever-gracing the flickering computer screens of bored office workers everywhere, Solitaire needs next to no introduction. This card game is as old as your Grandma, and it's probably her favourite as well. Played solo, it's been adapted to feature on pretty much every mobile gadget for over a decade, perfect for whiling away a few spare moments as the Candy Crush Saga of its day. Now that Bigben Interactive has had a go at bringing it to the 3DS eShop with Best of Board Games - Solitaire, how does it stack up?
There's actually very little explaining to be done, as this is a decidedly basic package. There are several variations on offer, but nothing too surprising for anyone who's even dabbled in the game before. Klondike is perhaps the most recognizable version, where you draw from a deck of cards to arrange their number values in rows of descending order, alternating colours along the way. This is done within the main playing area, before you ultimately arrange the cards by their individual suits in ascending order. It's all something of a mess to put into words, but it's easily picked up once you get the basic concept. Red cards can only be placed on black cards, and vice versa; this general rule will keep you on the right track.
Variants take on a different card layout and mix up the rules a little, but arranging cards in a set sequence is always the order of the day. Spider Solitaire and Freecell are old standbys, though Golf and Pyramid modes do well to make slightly more of a change. In Pyramid Solitaire, for example, you tap compatible cards to make them disappear until the pyramid formation is completely cleared. It's nothing too groundbreaking, but there are still five distinct modes here to play around with, which is a decent amount.
You can play all five variants at any time with Classic mode, or take them on in a set order with a more linear Adventure mode. This is a feature commonly found tacked-on to Bigben's game adaptations, which typically involves clearing out one set layout before moving on to the next, as if you're unlocking 'levels'. We found that the nature of Solitaire is much better suited to jumping into a randomized game with Classic mode, but the option is there if you prefer it for whatever reason.
Beginners can read up on the rules using the game's digital manual and a very basic tutorial, but you'll learn the most through simply diving right in. Each game mode is quite simple in practice, though an optional in-game hint system would have been a nice inclusion for first-timers. The game does let you know if no further moves are currently possible, however, and will then offer the limited use of a Joker card to help keep things moving. These switch cards and change the layout to 'refresh' the game, freeing up some possible moves.
Best Of Solitaire forces the use of touch controls, without any option for physical inputs, but thankfully this isn't much of an issue. Tapping and moving cards with the stylus is immediate and smooth, nicely emulating the act of moving them physically or clicking and sliding with a PC mouse. There's little to complain about, though we sometimes found that the precision wasn't quite spot-on enough to pick up multiple cards from a stack. Overall, the responsive controls are perhaps the game's strongest selling point.
This is one of few strengths, however, as there's so little else to boast about when it comes to design or aesthetics. The game plays well, but only ever against a drab backdrop of chirping birds and gusts of wind. There's absolutely no music outside of the main menu, and the same animation of a gently turning windmill plays on the top screen throughout. This would seem like a minor complaint, were it not for the game's hefty price tag at the time of writing this review. For £8.99/€9.99 you can't even customize the backs of your cards, and it lends a distinctly budget feel to the overall experience. Ideally we'd have different environments, many more game modes, or even some kind of basic leaderboard to share scores online.
Whipping up a simple adaption of Solitaire and throwing it onto the 3DS eShop is relatively easy, but we applaud Bigben Interactive for implementing tight controls and a few different game modes to add some value. Everything surrounding those core mechanics is woefully basic however, and we can't possibly justify the current asking price because of that. What's there is done pretty well, but there's just far too little on offer.
Wait for a price cut, and this one could be a solid option for some portable Solitaire. Until then, we recommend you dust off that old pack of cards on the shelf.