I played Magic Cards Solitaire at a weird juncture in my life. I’ve been pouring hours into Pocket Card Jockey, a Nintendo 3DS game that combines solitaire with horse racing, of all things. It’s kind of amazing how many weird directions game developers take solitaire in.
But that’s not a bad thing. The world-famous solo card game is compelling on its own, so there’s no harm in adding bells and whistles. In fact, even though I played Magic Cards Solitaire while still standing in the shadow of Pocket Card Jockey, I was impressed at how different the experiences are. Pocket Card Jockey rewards speed, accuracy, and quick thinking. Magic Cards Solitaire encourages forethought and relaxation. Both experiences are pretty cool in their own ways.
Both games even add a little narrative to their card-slinging action, because why the heck not. In Magic Cards Solitaire, a wizard’s apprentice befriends a fairy who falls out of one of his spellbooks. He has to gather up enough magic to send her back into the book, and to gather that magic, he has to play a lot of cards.
(Yeah, it’s weird – but in Pocket Card Jockey, you literally die and are only returned to life as part of a deal with God to race horses and play solitaire. By comparison, “A fairy just fell out of your book” seems as normal as pancakes on Sunday morning.)
Magic Cards Solitaire’s version of its titular game is a bit simpler than what you might be used to from Windows Solitaire. Cards are laid out in various formations, and a stack is laid below them with its top card flipped over. You need to select a card that’s higher or lower than that flipped card, and the selected card then becomes the next stack card. For instance, if you start a game with a flipped-over 5, you need to search out a 6 or a 4 in the cards laid out above. If you find a 4, then you need to find a 3 or another 5.
Ideally, you want to make long chains, which result in point multipliers. If a chain is broken because you need to flip over another card on your stack, your multiplier resets. Since clearing a level is often dependent on your score, you want to keep chains going for as long as possible. Using a hint or undoing a bad move will also reset your multiplier.
Magic Cards Solitaire is simple at its core, but it throws in a few twists to make your time with it a little more challenging. Odd formations limit how many cards you can use at once, and “overgrown” cards can’t be used until certain conditions are met, e.g. clearing all the other cards off the board.
These interesting gameplay quirks are one reason to choose Magic Cards Solitaire over one of countless free solitaire games available on the web (or built into your computer), but the game’s ambiance is another reason. Magic Cards Solitaire is a relaxing game that doesn’t rush you. Its woodsy graphics are soothing, and its gentle music is likewise calming. It’s a nice game to wind down with at the end of the day.
Magic Cards Solitaire doesn’t offer any big surprises, but it doesn’t need to. It sets out to offer a good, solid game of solitaire, and it does just that. While it’d be nice to have more versions of solitaire on tap (Spider, Freecell, etc), what’s here is well-built and enjoyable. Shuffle away.