Regency Solitaire

This is a strange one. A solitaire game set in Regency-era England where a young lady must restore her house to fortune by making money somehow through playing a card game by herself. (It’s not really explained.) It’s kind of charming, and the setting distinguishes it from a lot of other stuff coming out every day on Steam, but I ultimately found the plot a little too open-and-shut: the bad guy runs off without making too much trouble, the lady has already caught the dashing gentleman’s eye even before getting her family’s finances back in order. Everyone is as they appear at first glance. The plot doesn’t develop; the king and queen illustrated on the card faces don’t figure into the story. I couldn’t tell if the heroine was gambling to solve the debts incurred by her brother’s gambling, or what. And the ridiculous way money is earned adds to the underpinning of farce that’s usually present in these situations when you’re in the perspective of someone of high upbringing in a rigidly class-based society. I find myself wondering if there’s some turnip farmer waste-deep in shit a few miles away, dying from something curable, and completely barred from making his own money through magic single-player card games.

You do 10 rounds of solitaire to advance to the next level, which feels like padding, especially once you find out that the “Retry” button only brings you back to the start of the current round with no other penalties. (They don’t tell you how it works, but they should.) In a game with several luck elements (the order of cards in the deck, or the use of powers to shuffle or destroy certain random cards) it would be asking too much to get 8-9 perfect rounds in a row without using Retry. It feels almost like a free-to-play facebook game toward the higher levels where the odds are so stacked against you that you’re pressured to buy the in-app purchases. Except that here, the things that feel like microtransaction cheats–the retries, special energy powers, and joker cards–are all free. They become necessary, but invalidate the challenge, and this isn’t even motivated by real-world profit. It’s a balance that doesn’t really work quite right for anyone.

Likewise, I can only see people earning the high-combo achievements by throwing several matches in a row just to pull wildcards out of the deck, and then spending them all in one hand. You’ll eventually realize that the two destructive bonus powers don’t add to your combo when they remove cards from the playing field. This means they’re actually lowering your potential maximum combo. If you’re not stacking wildcards, then, you can only otherwise wait a very, very long time for the right RNG values to come along. Again, the sense of challenge is largely fake.

What I do like about the game is the sense of progression. I was never the type to waste time away playing Microsoft Solitaire. But set that in a world with art and people, sprinkle some plot between matches, allow the player to buy bonus abilities (reveal face-down cards, add jokers to the deck, etc.) and you’ve got my attention. (Mind you, for better or worse, this isn’t Klondike.) It’s just a little too shallow to get my endorsement.

The reviewer believes this game stands above total mediocrity. It has something going for it, but ultimately few real merits. Most of the time, it isn’t fun, and doesn’t otherwise provide any sort of emotional payoff. Even though it does some cool things, you should play something else instead.

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