On my visit to the great Niagara Falls, I was truly captivated by the majesty of the immense volume of falling water. It was a true open-mouth experience. To me, waterfalls are mesmerizing . . . peaceful, dangerous and intoxicating at the same time. Tik Games takes full advantage of those qualities in its American Falls Solitaire game for the iPhone and iPod Touch to create a Zen-like experience.
To be fair, I will warn you that the gameplay is addicting. Before you know it, your fingers will be tap, tap, tapping along, matching card after card. However, if you are a hard-core solitaire player, you may be disappointed. American Falls Solitaire (also know as Waterscape Solitaire: American Falls) uses standard playing cards, but the gameplay mechanic is much more like mahjong than standard solitaire. In traditional solitaire, you build up or down a card suit (diamonds, spades, hearts or clubs). American Falls is simple card matching game similar to Aloha Solitaire where you just match two cards, regardless of suit or color. See two aces, then tap them and it's a match.
You'll be pleasantly surprised at the detail embedded in this card game. The sparkly particle effects when you match cards are delightful. And you can earn undo and shuffle power-ups by matching specially marked cards. You end each round by uncovering and matching special gold cards, which explode with a flurry. If you're used to playing plain-Jane, no-frills solitaire games, American Falls will be a nice change of pace.
While the graphics are stunning (more than 15 beautiful photos of waterfalls), believe it or not, the sound is equally as impressive. In fact, the soundtrack was so relaxing, with its acoustic music and peaceful nature sounds, I was tempted to leave the game on my bedside table at night.
All in all, American Falls is a well-designed game with terrific graphics, a soothing soundtrack and addictive gameplay. So, why not 4.5 or 5 stars? Well, there's just one little fly in the ointment . . . one little “bug” that keeps on bugging throughout the game. Every time you finish a level, the game crashes, reboots and brings you back to the main menu. The good news is your progress is not lost, so you can hit “continue” and you can keep playing from where you left off. But the first couple of times it crashes, you might not realize that the game actually saved your data.
Game crashes are like scratches on your favorite music CD. You want to hear the song and if it's your only copy, then you keep on listening to that CD, even though you know that it's going to skip. You hope it won't skip this time, but there it is, and the scratch spoils an otherwise enjoyable experience. Like a broken record, at least American Falls Solitaire crashes in the same spot every time: after you complete each level. Almost every time, the crash prevented me from reading the inspirational message. The first time, I caught something about how a drop of water travels through time. Curious, I looked up some of the quotes on the PC version. Here's an example
“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise man grows it under his feet.” (from the PC version)
Too bad I couldn't read these phrases. The music and simple game mechanic definitely put me in the mood to be inspired. At $1.99, the American Falls is a good value. And maybe the developer will upload an update version soon that doesn't crash. That is one very nice feature of the iPhone that I appreciate. When an “update” for a program is available, the little icon appears on your iPhone screen automatically. Isn't technology wonderful?