Solitairica Review: An Adventurous Deal

Classic solitaire with a roguelike twist

Solitairica
Righteous Hammer Games

I've made no secret of my love for solitaire games in the past. Attempts to reinvent the genre always puts a smile on my face -- and when those reinventions delve into the worlds of fantasy and role-playing, that smile gets even wider.

That's one of the reasons I had such incredibly high hopes for Solitairica, a new card game that mixes solitaire with roguelike monster-fighting. It's not quite the game I'd expected it to be, but it's still a great ride for fans of traditional solitaire.

The Dealer

A lot of games that mash up genres try to land firmly in the middle of their two inspirations, creating an experience that's familiar, yet decidedly unique. Solitairica isn't that kind of mashup. Instead, you're mostly looking at a well-worn Tripeaks-style solitaire; the same type you might find in other mobile games like Fairway Solitaire Blast or Solitaire TriPeaks.

In Tripeaks, players are given a small deck of cards with one card revealed to play from. They need to use that deck to clear all of the cards from the playing field above. They'll do this by matching a number above or below the face value of the revealed card. If a player reveals a 5, for example, they could match it to a 4 or 6. Once they do, they can then try to chain together more matches on the playing field. A good run might look something like 5-4-5-6-7-8-7-6-7-8-9-10-J. Depending on the layout and shuffle, the ease with which you can accomplish this can vary greatly.

The Rogue

Where Solitairica sets itself apart from other Tripeaks games is in the addition of roguelike RPG components. Rather than playing in the typically lonely solitaire fashion, each round pits a player against a monster as they try to fight their way through an 18-battle campaign mode. The monsters don't play solitaire, but instead, have a deck of vicious cards that are played to damage or impede a player in a variety of ways.

To combat this, players will earn coins each round that can be spent on spells and items that will help them fight the forces of evil. Spells are powered by the cards you clear, with different suits powering different types of magic. This adds another layer of strategy to the experience. Where Tripeaks players might decide which card to clear based on the stack of cards behind it, Solitairica players will need to weigh that concern against the magic each card contains, and how its related spell might help in the coming turns.

Spells take a variety of different forms, with focuses on attack, defense, healing, and knowledge forming the basis of most magic. As you play, you'll find different spells that work better for your style. Eventually, though, you'll hit a wall and find a monster that completely obliterates you -- at which point you start all over again, with nary a magic word to your name.

That's the nature of a roguelike, though. Build up as much as you can, fail completely, and see if you can learn from your mistakes. 

Like any good roguelike, there's something you can keep for your effort each time. In this case, it's a special kind of currency that can only be spent between games.

You can use it to unlock unique cards for your deck or, should you be feeling particularly adventurous, a whole new deck of spell cards built around a different fantasy archetype. You'll start the game with a warrior deck but can unlock wizard, rogue, paladin, monk and bard decks as you make your way through the world of Solitairica.

Don't expect a new deck to make things any easier, though. I gleefully unlocked my wizard deck, but have yet to survive as long with it as I have with my starter warrior one.

The Joker

It's worth noting that Solitairica succeeds not only because of its gameplay, but also its personality.

While there's nothing jaw-dropping in terms of visuals, there are plenty of chuckles to be had, and the enemies have some wonderfully humorous designs. There's the weak little Dirt Guppy who gently nibbles on your head to attack, the beard-wielding Bjord, and the big scary monster that just can't stop hugging everyone. The characters run the gamut.

There's a wonderfully creative mind at work behind these character designs. They're charming, well-drawn, and even evoke fond memories of the masters in PopCap's casual classic, Peggle. If there's a higher compliment to be paid for enemy design in a game like this, I can't imagine what it would be.

And while the art may technically be simple in presentation, lacking in animations or 3D modeling, there's a talented hand at work here. Everything is just dripping with style, right down to the backgrounds that create a truly different vibe for each part of the world that you discover.

You'll have to practice a lot if you want to see everything, though.

The Player

Solitairica is a game with plenty of replayability, powerful spells, clever enemies, and a good deal of personality -- but also ...it's more or less just solitaire. If you were hoping for something that blurred the lines a little more, like Tinytouchtales' fantastic Card Crawl, you may initially feel a pang of disappointment with your purchase here.

If you can move past those feelings, you'll find that Solitairica might just be the best way to experience traditional solitaire yet. Sure it's a little too on the nose, but sometimes a great game just needs to be dressed up a bit to remind us that we've loved it all along.

Solitairica is now available on the App Store. It is also available for play on PC and Mac via Steam.