If you thought the castaways on ABC’s hit show, Lost, had a hard time on a deserted island, wait ’til you try your hand at Mystery Solitaire.
This challenging game drops players on a secret island with no means of escape. Your goal is to solve puzzles, locate hard-to-find items and collect pieces of a map that may lead to a way home.
While not without some flaws, the developers at SpinTop Games succeed in combining game formulas from other titles to create a fun – albeit unoriginal — experience for solitaire fans.
Mystery Solitaire can best be described as two games in one. The main game-play has you matching playing cards with the same value in order to remove them from the board. So, two Kings can be paired, as can two Eights, and so on. Similar to the tiles in Mahjong Solitaire or Shanghai, the goal is to successfully pair all cards so that they disappear, revealing the face-down cards underneath. If the gamer cannot make a pair with the face-up cards, they must click on the deck at the bottom or middle of the screen to flip up cards that may be a suitable match with those in the pile. The layout of the card pile may be a specific pattern or randomly scattered. In this regard, Mystery Solitaire closely resembles GameHouse’s Aloha Solitaire.
The second part of the game, which takes place every five levels or so, challenges players to find objects hidden in a scene, such as a sunken ship. A list of items – such as a hammer, anchor, ring, jellyfish, magnet and lantern – are listed on the bottom of the screen and you must carefully scan dozens of items and use the mouse to click the listed ones. Casual game fans may realize this is similar to the Mystery Case Files titles from Big Fish Games.
After you find all the items on your list you’ll be rewarded with a map piece, and then continue on to tackle 60 unique levels spread across a dozen island locations, each with a beautifully serene backgrounds (behind the cards) and equally-as-tranquil music.
Both game types can be challenging. With the card matching levels, players will find there is often more than one option when making pairs (such as seeing four 6’s on the board). Because you need to flip up face-down cards, the priority should be pairing cards with face-down cards underneath them — otherwise you may render them inaccessible if there is no match. You can click for hints, undo a move, reshuffle the deck or restart the level. Bonus cards pop up every few levels, such as a key and lock that need to be paired to flip the card underneath, joker cards that can be paired with any other cards, and magnet cards that pull cards off the screen to help clear the board faster.
The “Seek and Find” levels are tough because the items are very well hidden on the levels (more so than in the Mystery Case Files games). Also, sometimes it’s confusing what you’re supposed to look for. Once I was asked to look for a “paddle” but when I clicked on a row boat’s paddle, the oar wouldn’t be removed from the screen. Eventually, I realized it wanted me to find a ping-pong paddle, but it didn’t specify this beforehand. At least there’s no countdown timer and you’re not penalized for clicking on incorrect items as with some other games.
While it won’t win any awards for its originality, Mystery Solitaire is fun, challenging, and looks and sounds great. Players will enjoy the relaxing music and attractive graphics (including three card faces to choose from) and will likely find themselves going back for “just one more level.” An hour later, you’ll realize you’re inching towards unlocking this island’s secret and won’t be able to stop until you solve the mystery.