Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fairway Solitaire (Update)

Remember these guys:
John Cutter--Designer
Jake Birkett--Programmer
Matt Laverty--Artist

This was the core team that developed Fairway Solitaire, and they're absolutely brilliant. I don't even like card games, but I played this game absolutely compulsively until I finished it last night. 70 courses. Total play time was over 40 hours.

This is, easily, one of the best-designed games I've ever played. It's also incredibly fun, because the number of rewards and their frequency is almost perfectly balanced. The artwork is striking and distinctive. It's a complete, polished package.

And the detail! Here's one example. While I was playing, I'd occasionally hear sounds that were so faint I thought they were coming from the living room. What I was hearing, though, was an ambient sound loop that was course-specific. There are ten different ones, and they're all distinct. When you're playing on a seaside course, for example, you'll hear the sounds of crashing waves and seagulls.

This one feature is an excellent example of how well this game is designed. The ambient sounds are so faint that when you do figure out what's going on, it's a total surprise, and they're so softly played that they never become intrusive or annoying. It takes a very deft touch to do a feature like this properly.

Like I said a few weeks ago, I don't even like card games, but this game is so brilliantly designed and wonderfully fun that it demands to be played. Fairway Solitaire is one of the best games of this or any other year, and it's the best game that Big Fish has ever published.

I know what you're thinking--a card game just can't provide the kind of intense, absorbing experience that other games provide. I am totally with you on that belief--until now. I actually pumped my fist and hooted a few times when I cleared some of the more difficult courses. It's as absorbing as anything I played in 2007--in any genre.

If you haven't tried out the demo, please do. Here's the demo link, which has an hour time limit. Just be ready to pony up $19.99, because there's no way you're not going to buy this game.

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