Aw, Nertz! No, that wasn’t a cuss. This is a family website after all. Nertz is a favorite card game also known by the names Nerts, Peanuts, Squeak, Squinch, Grouch, Hallelujah and others. It’s a real-time, fast-paced diversion similar to Spit and Solitaire where multiple players each have a separate deck of cards.

Never heard of Nertz? Don’t feel bad, you’re in good company. It would be a shame, however, to miss Nertz Solitaire, a new, nutty twist on competitive solitaire play where your opponents are a family of squirrels.

Nertz Solitaire deals out three enjoyable game modes for card-playing fans. For some instant fun, Quick Play offers Easy, Medium and Hard levels of competition against one, two or three squirrelly opponents respectively. Classic Nertz serves up traditional card play against three opponents of your choice from eight included. Meanwhile, Championship gives you the chance to show you have what it takes to be a Nertz Champion, with five sets of awards to be claimed. And, in case you’re wondering, Quick Play and Classic Nertz provide an endless number of levels while Championship offers ten.

The object of Nertz Solitaire, at its basic level, is easily summed up. Play all 13 cards in your Nertz Deck and score the most points to win. Of course, it’s a bit more involved than that. Here’s how it plays out.

You start by choosing Quick Play, Classic Nertz or Championship mode and selecting your opponents (they’re chosen for you in the latter). Challengers, in order of increasing skill and speed, are Baby, Cousin, Sister, Nutzy, Dad, Mom, Gramps and Grammy. Next, the gameboard appears with your opponents displayed at the top along with the number of cards remaining in their deck and the top card. In the center are the Score Piles where you play your cards from lowest to highest, 1 to 13. Then, at the bottom, are your Dealer Deck, Nertz Deck and Build Piles. Build Piles allow you to temporarily “park” cards, highest to lowest on alternating colors, while looking for score opportunities.

In essence, the more cards you place on Score Piles, the more points you earn. You also want to empty your Nertz Deck quickly to avoid being penalized. So, work quickly moving Nertz cards from the Nertz Deck to either the Score or Build Piles as you deal cards, three at a time, from the Dealer Deck (once you flip through the whole deck, a Shuffle button lets you mix up the remaining cards). When you’ve played all cards in the Nertz Deck, a Nertz button appears. At this point, you can continue to play cards and score points or hit the button and end the round. Wait too long and an opponent may beat you. As you can imagine, the action can get quite frantic.

Scoring, though, couldn’t be much simpler. For each same-colored card played on the Score Piles, you earn 1,000 points. Thus, for example, seventeen cards equal 17,000 points. When someone empties their Nertz Deck and calls Nertz, everyone else looses 2,000 points for any remaining Nertz cards. Consequently, if you earned 17,000 points and have one card left in your Nertz Deck when the round ends, your final score would be 15,000 points. That’s all there is to it.

Nertz Solitaire is an exceptionally fun game. It looks and plays great, is a wonderful, family-friendly diversion and, like its squirrelly opponents, is long in the tooth. Plus, as you advance through Championship mode, additional music tracks, backgrounds and colorful card designs are unlocked, a neat bonus.

Still, all is not perfect. Two worthy criticisms can be dealt against the game. First, it crashed repeatedly during Championship play, a real pain when you’re trying to accumulate points to reach the next level. And, while not a direct failing itself, Nertz Solitaire begs for an online multiplayer component similar to that employed in Flip Words 2, as well as online leaderboards. Short story, it would be a blast to play other gamers in Championship-style play.

The above notwithstanding, for competitive solitaire at its best, Nutzy and his buck-toothed kin make Nertz Solitaire a standout. Whether you want a simple diversion to while away the minutes or have hopes at becoming a Nertz Champion, this game’s frantic fun is bound to drive you nuts!