Hands-on with Solitaire Blitz for Facebook
Some people say games are addictive by their very nature, but I wouldn't say this is true.
The feeling of victory is the addictive part - the exaltation experienced as you push past whatever obstacle was in your way to progress through the level, claim that achievement, or post a high score on the leaderboard.
The only way in which that sensation of victory could be heightened, really, is if that 'obstacle' were your friends. It's this leaderboard-driven competitive spirit that beats at the heart of all of PopCap's social games on Facebook.
Solitaire Blitz, currently in closed beta on Facebook but available to lucky journalists looking for a hands-on demo, is a natural continuation of this competitive game design ethic. It places the leaderboard at the forefront of the experience and drip-feeds you ways of getting one-up on your friends.
But, PopCap hasn't just taken everyone's favourite Windows 95 timewaster and slapped a few amusing cartoon characters on top. In fact, it's not 'normal' solitaire, at all.Fancy a round of Golf?
That's because Solitaire Blitz is actually based on the card game Golf rather than the traditional choice of Klondike.
Certain conditions must still be met in both games - you have to form runs of cards and you use standard decks - but Golf is faster and much more skill-based than its more famous cousin.
The top pile (in both Golf and Solitaire Blitz) starts with a random card upturned, with a series of columns running down the bottom of the tableau. Your aim is to play the face-up cards from the columns that are directly higher or lower in value to the card on the pile.
So, for instance, a three of hearts on the top of a pile can have a four or five of any suit placed on top of it. You keep moving up and down in runs until no cards in the columns can be played on top of the piles.
Should that happen, you draw from the deck until you run out. This continues until there are no more moves to make.Hit me again. And again. And again
While the base game of Golf is great fun, anyway, (in fact, it's my favourite solitaire game), PopCap has added a number of simple, but very nifty, features on top to bring Solitaire Blitz up to the high standards set by earlier titles that bear the Blitz suffix, namely Bejeweled Blitz.
More piles are unlocked as you work your way down the board, for instance, which open up extra possibilities for making a long run (and earning you bonus points). Multipliers are handed out for particularly skilful play, while three items selected prior to starting the game are hidden in the columns.
You buy these items using coins accrued over time. In typically colourful PopCap fashion, you don't just have this money tick up as you play. Instead, you are invited to open up treasure chests at the end of a session within which lies a variety of valuable sea items.Time is money
On top of all this is the accursed timer, ticking away relentlessly. The faster you complete the tableau, the greater the score bonus.
Just in case you weren't already addicted, a bonus is added to the next game you play if you successfully clear the board, egging you on to play again.
An energy system keeps that urge in check, though, with more sessions becoming available every ten minutes or so. If you're impatient, there's also the option of a quick top-up via Facebook credits or in-game silver coins.
Given that PopCap had to basically prise me away from the in-house laptop, I can see a fair few coins being sunk into this particular ocean when Solitaire Blitz becomes available to all Facebook users in March.