Small wonder South Florida’s such a hotspot for hipsters, vacationers and retirees alike. According to the world of Hoyle Miami Solitaire – set during the heyday of the city’s Art Deco Jazz Age – it’s a swinging place to be.
A collection of over 55 original diversions officially branded by the leading name in PC and tabletop playing card manufacturing, you won’t find a classier, or more relaxing, casual amusement around. While unlikely to draw new players into the solo-gaming fold, it’s nonetheless a superb way to kill 10 minutes, or an entire afternoon, happily puzzling your way through more than 100 individual challenges.
No confusing setup here: Two straightforward modes of play are offered, including Quick (instant action) and Story. The latter proves most compelling, as dashing, monocle-bedecked host John Carlisle Dunsworthy takes you on a tour of the town as you compete in the annual Miami Beach Solitaire Invitational. As an underlying adventure map – flush with fun locations like High Street in Coral Gables and flamingo-filled Hialeah Park, and traveled by winning stages in sequence – reveals, there’s plenty of neat surprises waiting.
Chief among them is the sheer amount of brainteasers you must contend with. Proceeding through the solo campaign requires that you take part in dozens of cool diversions with even funkier names (i.e. 3 Towers, Relaxed Golf and Dragonfly), each a variation on the standard Solitaire theme. For example, one challenge may require that you remove cards laid out in different-shaped patterns by matching those with equal value or creating stacks in proper numeric order. Another might ask that you make three or four piles of randomly-dealt cards whose values come as close to 21 as possible without exceeding said total. All told, especially from a beginner’s standpoint, the selection comes across as comprehensive and varied without proving esoteric or complex enough to intimidate.
Integrated help functions, as well as pre-game tutorials and built-in undo-move and hint features help take the edge off too. Sure, you may have to play a stage several times, and employ the aid of wild cards – earned by speedily stripping screens of obstacles – to come out ahead. But that’s the fun of the adventure; as with the real life pastime, victory always remains close at hand, if only you’re willing to stop, think and plan a step or two ahead.
Graphically, backdrops could use a slight boost. Pastel-hued surroundings, 16 garishly-colored card backs (unlocked through continued advancement) and even starring characters come across pleasingly stylized, yet a bit too static. Like the attractive animations which accompany shuffled decks and swapped cards though, featured scenes aren’t short on personality. Nor, while we’re at it, are showcased sound effects and a rollicking salsa soundtrack, whose infectious, toe-tapping beats are inspired by Buena Vista Social Club and Miami Sound Machine (for all you 80’s fans out there).
We’d have liked to have seen more play modes too, even with four hidden bonus games (i.e. The Mill) to discover. Don’t get us wrong: Mid-mission interludes which let you spend cash earned speedily-winning stages decorating a mansion at Key Biscayne with palm trees, gardens, cabanas, reflecting pools and Jacuzzis add longevity. But even the greenest player will soon tire of scenarios which simply rehash existing challenges by reconfiguring given card layouts.
Ultimately though, you’re looking at a solid and fun outing that’s appropriate for all ages and skill levels. In fact, we can’t think of many better ways for bored cubicle dwellers to idly pass the day or seniors to connect with their grandchildren.
Novices and experts alike are encouraged to give the game a try. Hoyle Miami Solitaire might not be the most awe-inspiring offering of its kind, but it does an excellent job of capturing both the authentic pastime (and metropolis on which it’s based)’s sunny disposition.