POKER DICE SOLITAIRE FUTURE (or PDSF for the remainder of this review) is essentially the digital equivalent to one of those electronic pocket poker games that your parents or grandparents were hooked on during the ‘90s. Designed to be played on the Wii U GamePad, this budget download offers a solitary take on poker to anyone that can handle touch-screen controls and understand the core fundamentals of the classic card game. While the title might give the impression that this is a hybrid of numerous tabletop games, it largely plays like poker, even if you won't be competing against other people.
Instead of using a traditional deck of playing cards PDSF uses dice, each numbered one to six. Every turn consists of three chances to roll, and the goal is to match any of the eight poker hands indicated on the screen. If a hand is made by the end of a turn, scoring points is as easy as tapping the corresponding match. But, if no match is made by the time all three rolls are used up, a scoring opportunity must be surrendered — the choice of which is yours.
How this works is that there are four empty boxes located beneath the icon for each hand, and once all of these have been filled with “chips,” that’s the end of the game. For example, let’s say you hold a sequence of numbers 1-5, which is a large straight. If you tap the large straight icon – it will be flashing to alert you of the current match – points will be awarded and one of the boxes directly below will turn green. This means that there are three chances left to cash in on this hand. If you end a turn with no eligible match then you’ll have to forfeit any one of the 32 boxes located on the board, which adds strategy to the proceedings.
When you place a red chip, that means you’re giving up the opportunity to earn bonus points for filling all four spaces with green chips. Since rolling the dice is all about chance, you’ll need to alter your strategy depending on how each game is unfolding. If we were a good way into a game and hadn’t once matched a single five-of-a-kind, that’s where we’d place a red chip — thinking it would be highly improbable to match the rare hand four times during the remaining turns. It might all sound more complicated than it really is, but if you’re familiar with the basics of poker, you should have it figured out in no time at all.
The five to ten minute long games can be addicting, and it’s almost effortless to get sucked into another game before you’re even aware you’ve selected “play again.” This is because of how simple PDSF is to play and how little commitment is necessary to participate. But even though we lost quite a few hours to chasing our own high scores, there quickly came a point when we were looking for more. Considering PDSF doesn’t offer any other modes or features whatsoever, it’s tough not to feel only partially satisfied.
The whole presentation is extremely bland and bare-bones, too, and you’ll be aware of this the moment the main menu loads. While the visuals are serviceable and don’t cause any problems to play, they’re entirely unremarkable and minimalistic. It’s not so terrible when viewed on the GamePad, but if the feed is also live on the television it’s hard to ignore. The absolute worst part of the package, however, is the music. Tonally, it fits the bill, but the only track in the entire game is about 16 seconds long, and it loops and loops and loops to the point of being dangerously close to inducing insanity — it may be serene and pleasant for a few moments, but be prepared to mute the volume after a couple of games.
Once we set a high-score of 1200-ish points, we found it very tough to milk the extra points needed to topple it. Because of this, it's understandable that there aren't any online leaderboards; however, the absence of local leaderboards is a bit puzzling. Initials can't even be entered to accompany the top score, so if you're planning to pass around the GamePad and play in a competitive manner with others in your household, it's easy to lose track of who retains top honours.
It's hard to deny that the core gameplay is fun and engaging, but the fact remains that it all feels unimpressive. This is mostly due to the unambitious cosmetics, the repetitious audio, and the lack of alternate modes and features. It doesn't help that, even though strategy plays a part, having a worthwhile game hinges on a lot of luck.
While PDSF surely does establish a solid foundation, it unfortunately doesn't put forth the effort to enhance or compliment it. If all you're looking for is what we've detailed in this review, then you presumably shouldn't have have much to dislike; yet if you want anything more, you're best off browsing the marketplace on your smartphone for a poker alternative.
POKER DICE SOLITAIRE FUTURE succeeds as a simple and accessible GamePad application that will allow poker diehards and high-scoring addicts to pass a little time while their television is in use. Unfortunately, it's such a bare-bones package that there's not much incentive to keep returning for more. With a single game mode, no hint of leaderboards, and an extremely bland presentation, even if your poker itch is initially scratched, staying satisfied with your purchase might be a different story. It's an affordable time that does a serviceable job, but when games far more feature rich are available elsewhere for less, it's hard to convince anyone that this is a game they must have. Roll the dice if you must, just don't expect too much.