Fairway Solitaire: now with micro-transactions!
No one was more surprised than I when Big Fish Games convinced me to like golf. Scratch that—when Big Fish made me obsessed with golf. Big Fish’s Fairway Solitaire kept me awake till the wee hours of the morning, matching cards and chasing the hard-to-achieve hole-in-one. Unfortunately, that game’s free-to-play first cousin, Fairway Solitaire: Tee to Play, is by comparison a bit of a let-down.
The main issue with Tee to Play is that in many ways, it’s the same as its immediate precursor. It uses the same man vs. gopher story to string levels together when it could really have used some new vignettes. I ask you, how could Big Fish deny us “Fairway Solitaire: The Gopher’s Revenge”? Not only is the narrative aspect of the game the same, but the gameplay is also more or less the same. For anyone who hasn’t played any of the Fairway games before, here’s a little background.
Tee to Play is a fast-paced, simplified version of the card game Solitaire. As opposed to traditional Solitaire where you’re meant to create sequential strings of cards, here cards are pulled from a draw deck and can be laid down upon other cards that are either one number higher or lower than they.
The card game aspect is tied to golf by associating the number of card matches to the distance the ball travels; the more matches made, the better the golf shot is. (Extra bonus points are given for pulling off long shots or “drives.”) Each hole you play has a “par,” or number of cards you’re allowed to leave on the table when the draw deck is depleted, and each course of three or more holes has an overall par. If you don’t stay under the course’s overall par, you can’t just replay individual holes—you’re forced to play the entire course over again (which incidentally, is bothersome).
You’re allowed one or two undos (meaning, if you draw a card from the deck prematurely and miss a match, you can back up one or sometimes two cards) and can use different golfing irons to help you finish off each hole. Irons are numbered one through nine and are either granted randomly or can be bought using golf bucks you earn during gameplay. And here’s where Tee to Play diverges from previous Fairway games. Previously, while power-ups were purchased 100% using in-game golf bucks, Tee to Play allows them to be bought using both golf bucks and real bucks. Wild card irons in particular are bought with a secondary form of in-game currency that costs real money, and prices range from $1.99 to $49.99, depending on the amount of currency you buy. This model is, frankly, nuts.
Since this game plays so much like the previous one (and that one cost a mere $6.99), why would we jump at the chance to spend $49.99? Sure, the new Fairway is free to download, but then it asks you to whip out your wallet every time you need a wild card. Looks like Tee to Play isn’t exactly free-to-play.
Another off-putting thing about the game is that you can’t play it full screen. It opens up within a window, which is somehow very annoying. Also, the sound mix in it is bizarre.
Commentator voiceovers and background sound effects are set so some things are too loud and some are too soft. I ended up turning both of them completely off, and I’m fairly certain most players will have to crack open the options menu to find settings that work better for them than the default.
All in all, Fairway Solitaire: Tee to Play is somewhat of a disappointing mystery. Considering any value it’s offering is undermined by its reuse of material, irritating windowed display, and even more irritating, wallet-draining microtransactions, it’s baffling Big Fish ever released it. Whatever their reasons, Fairway Solitaire: Tee to Play is not the success they hoped it would be, and ultimately achieves one thing; making us miss the original Fairway Solitaire.