If you're ever stranded on a desert isle with nothing but a pack of cards, there's a surefire way to get rescued. Break open the deck and start playing solitaire. A few minutes into the game, the first kibitzer will show up; within a halfhour, as many as half a dozen will be offering pointers, suggestions, and a foolproof way to win.
Solitaire Royale, a computer version of solitaire, gives you eight different solitaire games, plus three more for children. The game is graphically very attractive, and it plays smoothly and easily. Winning, of course, is practically impossible, but that's the fault of solitaire itself, not this program.
You might well wonder why, when you can play solitaire with a cheap deck of cards, you would need a computer.
The answer is, you don't. But that doesn't stop Solitaire Royale from being a very good game with some distinct advantages over cards. For example, if you sit down at the dining room table to play solitaire, within milliseconds you're surrounded by your spouse, your children, your cat, your dog, and a host of other demanding creatures. With Solitaire Royale, simply announce that you're doing some programming in COBOL-you're guaranteed absolute privacy.
There's also the lure of learning new ways of playing solitaire. Most of us know how to play Klondike, with its seven columns. But how many are familiar with Corners, a version that doesn't reshuffle the waste pile and which requires piling cards in a kind of circular sequence? Or what about Calculation, which has you build piles by calculating the next card to be played? And don't forget the very difficult Reno, which comes complete with a betting format. Children can opt for Concentration (matching pairs), Pairs (a simpler matching game), or The Wish, a matching game with a difference.
The program uses solitaire's scoring system in its Tour and Tournament games. Tour, also named Aunt Anne's Game, has you play each of the eight games in succession and accumulate the highest possible score. Tour can also be chosen as part of a tournament; tournaments allow players to play against one another, all using the same shuffle. Such a tournament would be unthinkable without a computer.
Use menus to choose your games and options. The Start a New Game and Tournament menus are practically identical, allowing you the choice of the eight games or the Tour option. The Tour menu lets you continue to the next tour game, see your score, or see the high scores. The Help menu lets you start the game over, change your last move, or peek into a pile. The latter two options are particularly appropriate, since solitaire players usually are incredible cheaters. Help can also refresh your memory about what a particular pile of cards represents, give an introduction to solitaire, and describe how solitaire (in general) is played. More specific rules for all eight games are in the How to Play menu.
Children's games are selected from the Project menu. All games can be saved to disk.
Card players are a varied lot, and Solitaire Royale's Settings menu recognizes this. You can select from 12 color ful decks. Watch the hands as they're dealt, or select Fast Deal and have it done with. You can click on cards to move them, or you can drag them from pile to pile. Finally, and this shows the designer's attention to detail, you can use a left-handed or a right-handed cursor.
The game won't let you make a mistake, and you can't cheat by removing cards from some piles and changing the order of others (there goes my strategy). You'll probably find yourself peeking often at the discard pile because, let's face it, you can't be expected to remember everything. And taking back your last move is an excellent way to find out the next card to be played. Remember, this is solitaire-you have only yourself to face in the morning.
Before trying out Solitaire Royale, I knew two solitaire games well and one other not so well. After many hours of play, I now know five quite well, and I'm working on the other three the game offers. Furthermore, others in my family have found the game addicting, and these are people who never-and I mean never-sit down with a deck of cards to play solitaire or anything else.
Solitaire Royale is a beautifully designed game, albeit on a somewhat strange topic. Its Tournament option may seem contradictory and not a little ironic, but it offers excellent competition. All I need now is a desert isle with an electrical outlet.
- Neil Randall
IBM PC and compatibles-$34.95
2061 Challenger Dr.
Alameda, CA 94501