MegaZebra builds a solitaire castle of cards on Facebook
Yet another card game is making its way to Facebook with a new release from social developer MegaZebra. Solitaire Castle is the latest addition to the company’s gaming collection and like many of the more recent card-based titles before it, centers itself around solitaire. Moving away from traditional solitaire, it is more reminiscent of both spider solitaire and web versions of mahjong. Puzzle-centric, the game is entertaining for those that enjoy such apps, but other than offering new puzzles, it brings nothing particularly impressive to the genre.
Solitaire Castle plays like many of the other solitaire variations on Facebook. You are presented with a layout of cards and a stack of face-up, discarded ones. The idea is to place cards from the play field that are one value above or below the top discarded card. This is repeated until all field cards are removed. In addition to this, Solitaire Castle employs the standard mahjong concept of disallowing the use of cards that have any part of another placed on top of them. Usually face down, these cards cannot be played until the above cards are removed.
Since they are often face down, a bit of luck is involved, so it is in your best interest to remove cards that are atop more than ones face down card. Should ever you run out of moves, you can click on a deck of cards, flipping the upper most one on to the top of the discard pile. However, once the deck is empty, the puzzle is failed. For each failure or retry you incur, a life is lost, which requires several minutes to replenish.
The puzzles are actually quite challenging, with many of the early ones requiring more than one attempt to accomplish. Thankfully, in later levels you’ll be able to buy helpful power-ups, which do things like removing all of one particular suit from play. Furthermore, you can opt to buy the virtual currency of “Magic Potion” — using Facebook Credits — that can add cards to your deck or purchase additional, more powerful, power-ups.
One of the other nice things about Solitaire Castle is that it does have a plethora of puzzles to solve. Working your way through an enchanted castle of sorts, there are seven tiers of increasingly difficult puzzles that unlock. As an added bonus, each level of the castle appears as a barren room that populates itself as individual stages are completed; creating a small amount of gratification upon completion.
In order to get to the next tier of stages, however, a certain number of stars must be earned from the prior ones. In a fairly standard fashion, you can earn up to three stars per puzzle from things like completion, score, or making X amount of moves before going to your deck. Unfortunately, you’re forced into pestering friends, as a handful of puzzles will disallow two potential stars unless you either invite friends or spend premium currency.
When it comes to presentation, Solitaire Castle feels a bit underdone. While it looks good, it’s also completely silent. There are no melodious soundtracks to coax thought and not so much as even a simple sound effect for clicking cards or making combos. Thankfully, such is an easier implementation (compared to, say, a major design flaw), and will hopefully be added in due time.
Overall though, the bulk of Solitaire Castle feels very average. The game is enjoyable for those that like a good puzzle and has a decent longevity to it, but it doesn’t really do anything that stands out. The power-ups are nice and a challenge is present, but the game really just feels OK. Between lack of sound design and sneakily implemented social elements, Solitaire Castle is worth a try, but don’t expect to be blown away.