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Solavant

Score: 95%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Smallware
Developer: Smallware
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Card Games/ Strategy/ Classic/Retro


Graphics & Sound:

If you are like most people, you've played your fair share of Solitaire on a computer. It helps that almost every personal PC and handheld (including phones) comes with some version of the ultimate one-player game installed and ready to play.

If you ever thought Solitaire was a simple game, you'd be in good company. But, Smallware would like to disabuse you of that notion with its fantastic collection of Solitaire games, Solavant. "What makes Solavant different than the game I already have on my computer?", I can hear you saying already. Well, what makes a Hummer different than a Mini? Or, a 50" plasma TV different than a 13" set with rabbit-ears?

Fancy visuals and sound aren't the point here, but there is much to recommend some of the choices made in design here. The compilation of so many games makes for a very long list, so Smallware created some groupings of games into Hard, Harder and Hardest categories. You can also choose games to be filed under "Favorites" which makes them even easier to reach for. When you start a game, the card size can be adjusted on the fly, which is nice for fitting a small screen. Some of the games here display a lot of cards on the table at once, so it helps to resize.

Solavant is probably aiming right now at a more purist audience, since there isn't a great deal of design customization built into the game. I would have liked to have seen some option to dial in custom backgrounds or card-backs, as I've seen in games in the past. Sure, it's a little cheesy, but us Mac people like our stuff all pretty, you know?


Gameplay:

One. Hundred. Seventy.

That's how many games are collected in Solavant. Some games you've never heard of, never seen, and definitely never played. Smallware just made a few of them up. The nice thing is that games can be saved and returned to later, which means you don't have to give up on that possibility of a great hand just to go take the dog for a walk.

With so many variants and so much new territory to explore, Smallware found some nice ways to keep players from getting lost or confused. Solavant includes a neat feature that displays a rule drawer next to the active game. This shows you important stuff like how cards can be played and what the requirements are to win. Each game's rules are clearly explained, and the rule drawer can be put away when not in use.

Solavant supports some nice time-saving features like auto-play for those moments when you have a good run going but don't want to individually play all the cards. The "Undo" feature was a must for me in some games, although purists will probably eschew the use of this feature. Nice to have if you want to see how the game would have played out differently if you'd made different choices.


Difficulty:

The Hard, Harder, Hardest thing seems to be weighted according to how many conditions can produce a Win in each game. Some of the variants are so tightly wound that within a few rounds of play, you are locked out and can't continue. This is as much due to a bad shuffle as poor strategic play, but most of the games in Hardest seem to also require very deliberate play and have the most restrictive rules for moving cards. The point of Solavant isn't to create Solitaire games that nobody can play, but to offer games where strategic play is important.

Game Mechanics:

Not only is the install of Solavant a cinch, but Smallware seems busy updating the game and releasing upgrades. Getting on the company's mailer means you can be alerted of new versions, and you can go to their site to get a download link sent to you by e-mail.

The full version of Solavant is $27, and if a friend recommends the game to you, the referral amounts to a $5 coupon. Family and Student licenses are offered at a special price, and there are two variant downloads that can be purchased. Solavant Core includes 25 games that range from common (Klondike) to more exotic (Forty Thieves). Solavant Spider includes games like Tarantula, Black Widow, Curds and Whey... you get the idea.

Solavant is a dream for Solitaire fans, and available right now only to Mac users. If you want a host of card games, there isn't anything else here but Solitaire, but you could probably get more mileage out of Solavant than most general collections of card games that you'll burn out on after a while. The chances of burning out on Solavant are slim to none, and slim is out of town, as the wise man said.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Minimum System Requirements:



Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) or newer, Apple Macintosh G3 or newer, 20 MB hard drive space
 

Test System:



Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), Apple iMac G5

Windows Everquest: Prophecy of Ro Sony PlayStation Portable YS: The Ark of Napishtim

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated