With Zynga Poker an obvious jewel in their social gaming crown, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Zynga tried their hand at bringing another card game to the table. Much to our surprise, though, they've had another casino game quietly occupying their roster since 2007. Blackjack hasn't been given anywhere near the attention that Zynga's other properties have, and after a few hours with the game we started to see why.
Blackjack isn't a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. The core gameplay retains the same well-paced real-time multiplayer experience that we loved about its poker-playing cousin. The problem is that, outside of the table action, Blackjack is a completely bare-bones offering. There's no in-game achievements, no asynchronous friend interaction – not even a way to buy additional chips should you run out. Much to our surprise, Blackjack offers nothing but the cards.
Blackjack is one of the world's most popular casino games, with a history as long as it is confusing. The basics of the game are fairly simple and Zynga's Blackjack follows these traditional rules to a tee. Players are dealt two cards and can request additional cards if they so choose in an attempt to get a combined total of 21. Going over 21 is considered a bust and takes you out of the game. To win you need to get a higher hand than the dealer without going over 21. And while there are other nuances to the game that every player should learn (when to split, when to double down, when the dealer is required to hit and stand, etc..) these can all be learned through Blackjack's handy “How To Play” instructional page or simply through a few hours of trial and error gameplay.
The gameplay itself is very tight and well paced with reasonable timers and quick-moving gameplay that never feels rushed. As in most real time games a live chat window let's players at the table interact. Betting is as easy as clicking on chips, and the look of the game is just as well-polished as the gameplay. The core of the game is exactly what you'd want in a blackjack game – it's just not what you'd want from a Facebook game.
While there's a friends leaderboard available outside of the game, and the ability to play with your friends if they're online, there's no asynchronous experience if you're looking to interact with your friends while they're offline. Blackjack fails to offer giving chips as gifts, participating in group challenges, or any of the other great social experiences that you might expect Zynga to bring to the table.
The real solution here would be to simply fold Blackjack into Zynga Poker to create a “Zynga Casino,” with shared chips, tournaments, and challenges. Not only would that give this solid blackjack experience a chance to benefit from a better social structure, it would help to raise awareness of this otherwise excellent blackjack experience. It's a dream, we know – but when you have an inferior social experience sitting next to a successful one, it only makes sense to either duplicate what you're doing right or roll the inferior product into the successful one.
It may have been completely bare-bones in terms of Facebook friendliness, but the blackjack fanatic in me loved the quality gameplay that was offered. Like Zynga Poker, the game speed was incredibly well-balanced. The visual presentation was solid without being showy, and the group chat can get fun if you get the right group of people together. If you're looking to recreate the blackjack table experience, Zynga's Blackjack does a good job. If you're looking for a well-rounded social experience more akin to other Facebook offerings though, you're going to be left wanting.