Game Reviews

Solitaire Blitz

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| Solitaire Blitz
Solitaire Blitz
| Solitaire Blitz

The thing about PopCap games is that they can be a little bit moreish, which makes them excellent value for money. Once you've made a single payment you're neurochemically forced to enjoy unlimited hours of gameplay.

But this business model is terribly unfair for PopCap. While cigarette manufacturers, brewers, and drug lords are able to carry on selling their moreish substances indefinitely, PopCap has always been restricted to a single transaction per user.

Not any more. Now that the freemium revolution has taken place the publisher can sell its product on a basis that properly rewards its uncanny knack for inducing addiction. Solitaire Blitz is the latest to come to iOS.

The game contains just one form of solitaire - Golf - refined to arcadey perfection. If you're not familiar with Golf, here's how it works.

You start with a pile of cards at the top of the screen, the uppermost of which is turned over to create a build pile. Beneath that are seven columns of cards of varying lengths, with a face-up card at the top of each.

Free would

If a card on the bottom half of the screen is either one higher or one lower than the card at the top of the build pile (e.g. a 6 or a 4 of any suit if the build card is a 5) then you tap it and up it goes. If there's no suitable card at the bottom, you can tap on the deck to turn over another card at the top. The aim of the game is to get all of the cards from the bottom half of the screen up to the top half.

But PopCap doesn't leave things there. For one thing, rounds are timed - you get a minute on the clock by default, although you can extend this within rounds by clearing your cards past Time Lines. For another thing, there are score multipliers for getting runs.

For yet another thing, among the cards along the bottom are "key cards", which slide up to the top of the screen and turn into extra build cards, giving you two or three opportunities to dispose of a card rather than one.

Finally, there are bonus items of differing values hidden on the seabed beneath the columns - take note of these at the beginning of each round before the cards are laid and you can decide which columns to prioritise.

All of this makes up the magical potion of luck and skill that PopCap is so adept at concocting, but if you want to dominate your Facebook leaderboard you'll have to do more than be lucky and skilful. You'll have to buy boosts.

You can obtain some of these with in-game currency that you accumulate through normal play, while others you can only get by shelling out £3.99 / $5.99 to £18.99 / $26.99 for batches that vary in number depending on what you buy - for example, £3.99 / $5.99 will net you 14 Run Finders but only eight Bonus Fish.

The free, the free

Of course, you can choose to simply ignore these boosts, only using the ones you can pay for with in-game currency whenever you've saved enough up, but if you're the sort of person who likes to be demonstrably better than other people at Facebook games then you'll be sorely tempted to shell out.

There are two other kinds of IAP in Solitaire Blitz. You can buy batches of coins at a reasonably fair exchange rate, or you can buy energy in order to avoid being locked out whenever your existing - and constantly replenishing - supply runs dry.

Solitaire Blitz is a very good casual game. Throughout the time you spend in its PopCap-engineered sensory bubble of hypnotic chimes and positive feedback and babbling sea things you'll be hooked.

But if you're not the sort of person who pays to play freemium games then your sessions in the bubble will always be restricted to 20 minutes here and there. You'll pay nothing, and in return you'll experience another exquisitely made PopCap game in brief, controlled, and inevitably frustrating doses while your more generous and competitive counterparts binge.

As long as you don't mind either paying a theoretically limitless amount of money or condemning yourself to leaderboard obscurity and curtailed gameplay then you should download Solitaire Blitz without hesitation. The payment model won't make everybody happy, but PopCap is PopCap, however you choose to administer the drug.

Solitaire Blitz

Solitaire Blitz is vintage PopCap, with peerlessly addictive gameplay and quietly impressive presentation. Unfortunately, the freemium payment model will be a barrier for many