Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Most Unlikely Game Recommendation Ever

I've been compulsively playing a game for the last three days and I can't seem to stop.

This is not the kind of game I usually play. In fact, it's in a genre that I almost never play. But this game is so clever and so polished that I'm just amazed.

It's also one of the strangest ideas I've ever seen, because it combines solitaire--with golf.

It's called Fairway Solitaire.

Let me try to explain a few of the play mechanics in this game and why it's so incredibly addictive. You play "rounds" consisting of either nine or eighteen holes (plus the occasional special event). Each hole is a solitaire game (they take two or three minutes each), but the card layout varies widely. You can match either one card above or below in value, and it's possible to go on ten or even fifteen card runs. Once you've exhausted the matches, you draw a card from the deck, and when the deck is empty, the hole is over.

At the end of each hole, your score is how many cards are remaining, although the worst you can score is five over par for the hole. And really, even though there's a a golf scorecard with "par" for each hole, par doesn't seem to have much relation to the difficulty of that particular deck.

What does have meaning, though, is how the golf theme affects the play mechanics. For instance, you'll occasionally find a "club" card--a five-iron, for example. This goes into your bag, and if you need a five to continue a matching run, you can just pull it (once) out of your bag and play it.

If there's a "bunker" on the hole (four or five cards, all face down), you need to find the sand wedge card in the layout before those cards flip over.

Oh, and here's one more cool feature. If you chain enough cards together, it's a "long drive" and it increases your scoring multiplier. And when you finish the chain, you're rewarded with a very authentic sounding driver sound. You'll also hear a cheering crowd when you do well.

What all these variations in gameplay do is keep the game feeling very fresh. And the sound effects, in general, are just fantastic. There's golf commentary, sand trap and water sounds, and the "big drive" sound, in addition to the cheering (and groaning) crowds that I already mentioned.

The "courses" are really just a different background picture at each venue, but they still help establish atmosphere. There are a huge number of card layouts, though, and they definitely make each course feel unique.

It's simple to play, utterly addictive, and incredibly fun. You can download a free demo at Big Fish Games, and the developer is Grey Alien Games

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