Review: Fairway Solitaire
If there are any Psion Series 3 owners reading this, then Fairway Solitaire is going to be a very interesting walk down memory line (with a twist or two), recognising the card game 'Homerun' (plus there's the 'Fairway' reference, used by our own Steve in his Psion golf sim!) I'm pretty sure that everyone else is going to recognise the golf mechanic that has been jauntily placed on top of a simple, yet addictive card game.
Version Reviewed: 22.214.171.124
Let's start with the mechanics of the card game. You have a playing field of cards dealt face up and down, and a single card played from the stock face up in front of you. You can play one card from the field onto the single card if it is one higher or one lower in value. And then play another. And another. Yes, you can chain together a lot of cards, and only when there are no more valid moves do you play another card from the stock pile. Assuming you have cards left. It's either run out of cards in the stock pile, or clear all the cards that are in the playing field. And when you finish the game, the number of cards left will represent your score.
Which is where the golf layer comes in. Each game will have a 'par' score that you need to try and beat. Get under the par (for example Par 4, the average player will end the game with four cards in the playing field), and you'll be well on the way to completing a bundle of levels with the best possible score. Naturally there's a 'three star' system to show just well you performed over each level (or golf course) so you can get instant feedback on your progress.
By breaking the card game out of being 'just' a card game, Fairway Solitaire gives the solitaire game a new energy and longevity, while allowing developers Big Fish an opportunity to go to town on the desktop graphics behind the playing field, the ancillary graphics, and the sports announcer.
Yes, you'll be accompanied around the levels by a distinctly American announcer, talking you through the opening of each level and how you are getting on during each game. He might be American, but there's a distinctly British vein of humour in the conversations, and you should keep half an ear out for some of the announcements. They don't affect the gameplay but they certainly make it a bit more amusing. It also shows a bit of care and attention in the presentation of the game, and that's always good to see.
Each game is different each time you play, thanks to the shuffling of the cards. What does stay constant is the layout of the cards on each hole. While the regular seven rows of five cards is where you start, there are far more complicated layouts to come.
You'll also find that some cards are blocked and not playable until other cards are played - for example, trapped in a water hazard until all the cards that are 'under water' are removed. Again, a great touch to extend the basic patience styling of the game, but also a way to continue to build on the golfing aspect of the game.
I do have some concerns over the title. You can create a run of cards that goes Jack - Queen - King - Ace - Two - Three. I understand that this makes the game much faster to play, and it's not the only patience game that 'turns the corner', but it seems to make it just a touch more arcade than puzzle based.
The other concern is from a financial point of view. It is a free download in the Windows Store, but this is only for the trial. You need to make an in-app purchase to unlock the full game, and there is no indication that you'll be able to restore the full game on another handset, or restore the game to your handset in the event of restoring data. In theory it is possible, but I did pause for a moment before completing the purchase.
Because this is a strong title. Okay I've a long history with this style of patience game (being one of the aforementioned Psion owners), but Fairway Solitaire is fast to play, is well presented, and has just enough tweaks to the core game to make it stand out. It might look like it's just a solitaire game, but there is a lot to recommend this title.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at