Game

Cast spells and fight monsters in this roguelike remix of the classic card game

Price: $3.99/£2.99
Version: 1.0.8
Size: 215 MB
Platform: iPhone/iPad
Developer: Righteous Hammer Games

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Ah, Solitaire. The addictive card game responsible for millions of unproductive work hours since it first taught point-and-click mouse skills to home computing newbies. It’s a classic, simple but endlessly replayable – but wouldn’t it be nice to harness that familiar gameplay, throw in some light strategy and make those play sessions actually count towards a goal? Luckily for us, the guys at Righteous Hammer Games had that exact idea…

The basics of Solitaire, for those who haven’t worked an office job since 1990, involve clearing cards from the board by matching them with neighboring numbers from your deck – a 6 could match either a 5 or a 7, for example – until none remain. This well-worn mechanic forms the basis for Solitairica, but here the stacks of cards represent enemies in battle, with each cleared card contributing to their downfall. Meanwhile, the bad guys have their own decks, complete with moves that will damage your health bar or hinder your progress each time you draw a new card. Drop to zero health before clearing the board and it’s game over.

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Use the 10 from your deck to clear the 9 from the board. Simple…

Replacing the four conventional card suits are Attack, Defense, Agility and Willpower – the four energies of the game, collected by drawing and clearing cards. These energy supplies can then be spent to fire off game-changing spells: destroying cards, stunning the enemy, sneaking a peek through the deck and healing yourself all feature, as do more complex incantations later in the game. The spells are the biggest addition to the standard gameplay of Solitaire, adding a layer of strategy that’s satisfying and tactical without being too deep or complex; like many card games, even a skilled player must rely on the luck of the draw to some degree.

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Eventually things get tougher, with more cards to clear and harder enemies to fight

The other core principal of the game is its “roguelike” nature, a term which will be familiar to avid gamers but nonsense to everyone else. In this context it means that to win the game you must defeat a series of randomly generated foes – of increasing difficulty – in one run, without dying. Between each round of combat you’ll buy new spells and stat-boosting items, while losing any single match will permanently reset your progress back to the start. The roguelike principles keep the game varied, encouraging you to employ new tactics each time to try to improve your performance. There are enough different tactics and so many combinations of items, spells and enemies that no two runs are the same, although once you get into a groove the early stages of the game can become a little repetitive in their simplicity.

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Choose wisely! Between fights you can buy upgraded spells and items

This is a well polished game, bursting with slick animations, neat graphics and amusing character dialog. Random enemies and attack patterns keep you on toes, while six unlockable card decks cover the strategic spectrum from brute force to tactical finesse. Collecting ‘wildstone’ helps to permanently unlock and power up these decks, and finding the one which matches your play style is a fun pursuit that adds a lot of replay value to the game.

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Enemies are randomly generated from a series of amusing and dangerous adjectives and nouns

Ultimately this is a game of balance, of biding time, upgrading spells and choosing the right moment to strike. It also gets the balance right between the familiarity of Solitaire and the addition of new elements. If you hate the thought of repeatedly starting from scratch, or don’t like RPG-style tactical combat, you might be better off with a more conventional card game – but fans of similar games like Card Crawl will be right at home here, as will those who enjoy Solitaire but wish it had a bit more going on. We’re pleased to report there are no ads or in-app purchases, and if the concept grabs you there are hours upon hours of fun to be had with Solitairica.

Review: Solitairica – a new lease of life for Solitaire
Tactical combat meets calming card-matching in this successful hybrid of gaming genres
For
  • Fun, well-honed strategy gaming
  • Each playthrough is different
  • Easy to play, tough to complete
Against
  • Relies fairly heavily on luck
  • Early stages can become tiresome
4.6Overall Score