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Hoyle Card Games 2009

Score: 50%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Encore
Developer:
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 (Online Multiplayer)
Genre: Card Games/ Online/ Family

Graphics & Sound:

When you think of PC games, you generally think of top of the line graphics, sweet audio, and an experience that you just can't get on a console system. With Encore Software's Hoyle Card Games 2009, you get just the opposite. It is true that most casual games don't necessarily stand out with normal mapping, 5.1 Surround, and the like, but this title goes one step backward than just the basics.

You see, Hoyle Card Games 2009 actually has some bad graphical glitches that one would hope to be working at first boot, or certainly with Internet updates at the very least. Even after an update for dealer animations, the character stutters, doesn't actually deal at times, and always hands the cards out face-up (thinking of the blackjack dealer). However, to add insult to injury, the face-up card is always the same Ace, regardless of what your turn card actually ends up being. The worst problem, however, comes with the semi-transparent cards in players' hands that are indistinguishable, even in games such as Pinochle, where you are required to show your hand to other players and knowing what others have in there hands is a huge part of the game's strategy.

As far as audio goes, it is generally laughable. The only real source of entertainment on this front comes with the dialogue that you can have with other players. By pressing either a positive or negative button next to your opponents, partners, or yourself, you can make silly one-liners or trash-talk to make yourself feel better. While much of this dialogue is forgettable, there are times where it is appropriate because much of the talking is based on who you are addressing, which is a nice touch. Just don't expect any riveting music to accompany your long hours of play time.


Gameplay:

Hoyle Card Games 2009 will likely satisfy nearly everyone's craving for multiple playing-card games. It's nearly impossible to not find some of your favorites within the oodles of different available games. Within, you'll be able to choose from three main categories: Solo Games, Team Games, and Competitive Games. Depending on which you choose, you will be presented with the appropriate choices, some that may take you five or ten minutes to play through, such as Solitaire, and some that may take you thirty minutes or an hour to complete, such as Gin.

The best feature of Hoyle Card Games 2009 is, by far, the number of games to be played, because there are also some disappointments involved in this title. Unfortunately, there are card games out there that have developed different rule sets, and all of those aren't necessarily going to be included in Hoyle Card Games 2009. In my case, a prime example is that every time I've ever played Pinochle over my lifetime, we have always passed three cards if you've taken the bid. It's not so in this PC game. Dilemmas like this are going to be common, and if you don't read up on each game's rules (some games do have different versions to choose from), you can have a nasty surprise when it comes time to tally up the results and you've found out that you've been set. Along those lines, a game like Pinochle requires every player to show his or her meld before each hand - something that helps you know where you can pick up tricks and who has loser cards - yet in Hoyle Card Games 2009, you can't see anyone's cards because they are not displayed on the screen, giving you a huge disadvantage.

Another huge problem that I had with Hoyle Card Games 2009 was with some of its interactions and GUI (Graphical User Interface) system. There were a few times where I accidently clicked the wrong button simply because of its naming scheme, and there were also multiple times where I clicked while trying to play fast and clicked on the card that I wanted to play, only to have it replaced by another draw card that managed to get in the way just as I clicked, eventually playing the wrong card with no way to take it back.

It is also said that you can take your player online and play against other card players, but at the time of this review, there wasn't a single soul to be found, so this feature was untested - scratch that, I was finally able to get in. There were a total of three of us online, but the system is massively broken. Not only did I continuously get booted, but the friend system didn't function correctly at first and it was (sometimes) impossible to back out of a game lobby without exiting the entire game. In addition, even though I was able to get into a single game of Blackjack, many other attempts left me stranded in the lobby, unable to start the game. There was also a button for online Tournaments, but there weren't any available to test. The online GUI was also very broken, with buttons floating on top of each other that shouldn't have been.

Hoyle Card Games 2009 is also a part of the Royal Suite (along with Hoyle Casino 2009 and Hoyle Slots 2009). As such, they all have a joint monetary system, so when you create one character/avatar, he, she, or it (there are non-humans in the game as well) will be available in all games, and so will the character's bank roll. If you own all three titles, you will be able to go online into a private area reserved for Hoyle's elite. If you gamble away your winnings, you'll either be able to use the house's credit or be forced to reset your character's money and stats, starting from scratch once again.


Difficulty:

Hoyle Card Games 2009 is a mixed bag of difficulty. Depending on the game that is chosen, there may or may not be a great deal of difficulty involved. As an example, there are a couple of games within that could easily be played by a young person, even a small child. Two such examples are playing a game of Memory or Old Maid, requiring only the skill of remembering and the skill of matching, respectively.

From there you've got your medium-difficulty variety of games, including that of Solitaire and Texas Hold'em, up to games like Bridge and Canasta. On the high end, you can also choose to play games that require a bit more thinking and planning, usually involving games where bidding takes place, like Pinochle and Euchre.

As far as the computer's A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) goes, it really isn't all that good. Unfortunately, there were many times where I noticed improper playing in terms of partner games, or unintelligent playing in games of Poker or Blackjack. It's not to say that the A.I. is a complete blunder or anything, as it does play correctly most of the time, but it is to say that you shouldn't expect any epic battles.


Game Mechanics:

As mentioned before, this game is defined as being a casual game, and as such, involves a lot of clicking on a 2D interface. This interface is generally good, but does have its problems. A few times I found myself clicking an unwanted button because I was trying to play fast and either misclicked or subconsciously got the names on the buttons confused with my intended interaction. In addition, the fact that there were times when I needed to see opponent/partner cards and couldn't made for a frustrating experience.

Hoyle Card Games 2009 is also full of bugs out of the box, both graphically and in code. I crashed numerous times when first trying to play on my test system, but haven't noticed that problem since downloading updates (which can take over an hour on a wireless connection).

If you are the type of person who just can't get enough cards, then Hoyle Card Games 2009 is probably just what you are looking for. There are tons and tons of different games to choose from; just be prepared to modify your rules a bit if you tend to play regionally differently than the standard. However, because of some of the frustrations and bugs in Hoyle Card Games 2009, there may be other titles out there with more appeal.

One Final Note: The Hoyle Card Games 2009 DVD will work on both PC and Mac, but be sure to check out the system requirements because the Mac version requires an Intel processor to run. The Mac version was not tested; therefore this review only applies to the PC version.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows: XP (Home & Pro) SP3/Vista SP1; Pentium(r) IV 2.4 GHz processor or faster; 512 MB (1 GB RAM for Vista); 1024x768 16 bit color display; 64MB VRAM (Intel GMA chipsets supported); 3 GB Hard Disk Space; DVD-ROM drive; 33.6 Kbps modem or faster and internet service provider account required for internet access; Broadband internet service recommended

Macintosh: OS X 10.4.10-10.5.4; Intel Core Solo processor or better; 1.5 GHz or higher processor; 512 MB RAM; 64MB VRAM (Intel GMA chipsets supported); 3 GB hard drive space; DVD-ROM drive; 33.6 Kbps modem or faster and internet service provider account required for internet access; Broadband internet service recommended

 

Test System:



AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile Technology TL-52; 1.61GHz (Dual) Processors; 960MB RAM; NVIDIA GeForce Go 6150 Integrated Graphics

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