Review: Seven Seas Solitaire (PC)
by Aaron Sirois on February 11, 2013

sevenseascover
Seven Seas Solitaire
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Ana Wiki Games
Genre: Card Game
Release Date: 01/29/2013

While the name Solitaire my invoke images of the same card game for most people, the term actually reflects any single player card game. That’s why computers tend to come equipped with several different variations. Free Cell is a whole different kind of game from Spider, and what is usually called just Solitaire is something different altogether.

So, it might interesting for would be players of Seven Seas Solitaire to know that it does not use the rules of the game you play at work. It still uses a deck of cards, is played by yourself, and involves clearing a group of cards off the table before you run out of cards in your deck. To spice things up a bit, SSS also includes some unique changes to make the game a bit more interesting.

sevenseas1Believe it or not, there is a story to this game. You play a retired sea captain about to get married. Sadly, your fiance is kidnapped, and you are the prime suspect. It’s up to you to grab a ship, find your fiance, and clear your name before you’re just another corpse hanging off the pier. There’s more than just a setup here, as clearing chapters in the game unlocks journal entries that clue you into the events of the world. The writing here is serviceable, but there’s no real tension or excitement. These truly feel like a captain’s log, and aren’t written to be wholly entertaining. Still, it’s nice that an honest attempt at giving the game some background was made.

Visually, the game is fairly decent, though extremely simple. The cards are colored brightly, and feature pirate-themed portraits on the front. The bright look goes a long way, because otherwise there is nothing going on. It really is just a bunch of cards that you clear away one at a time. There’s even a problem when it comes to “shallow waters” cards. These cards are faded to give them a unique look, but said look also makes it harder to see what the cards are. It’s a bit of an oversight.

As for the audio, the game is mostly very low key. There is a fun menu theme and a victory tune, but that’s pretty much it for the music. Instead, you hear background noise as you play the game. This is an interesting choice, but not necessarily a wise one. While some levels feature peaceful waves and far off seagulls, other include sounds of battle and dying men. The latter could get quite distracting, and just didn’t seem to gel with the idea of playing Solitaire.

The basic premise of the game is quite simple. You have several groups of cards that must be eliminated one by one. To do this, you have a deck of your own cards. One is flipped over, and the game begins. You can only remove cards from the board that are one below or one above the card on top of your pile. Once a card is removed, it is placed on top of your pile, while the card beneath it is flipped over. There are numerous setups, so that clearing one card may reveal as many as four more, or there may simply be a card out on its own.

sevenseas2What’s interesting here is that your goal isn’t necessarily to clear all of the cards on the table. Each level is split into several rounds. For each level, you’re given objectives to complete. These include earning a certain amount of cash, creating a huge combo, or getting a certain number of perfects. Failing to complete the objectives means you’ll have to start over. This changes your strategy, as you may need to focus more on setting up combos rather than removing any possible card.

Combos are created after you’ve cleared six cards in a row. Any additional point towards that combo adds to your multiplier, which can get up to five. This multiplier is applied to your gold total. Gold is earned for clearing groups of cards, and rewarded as bonuses for clearing most of the cards. Getting a perfect adds a healthy bonus, and getting that five times multiplier is a nice boon as well. Gold is used to buy upgrades for your hideout. These upgrades positively affect your gameplay. They can give you extra cards in your deck, automatically clear cards off the board, give you extra redos, and so on. These upgrades are expensive, so there is extra incentive to earn big bucks in each level.

sevenseas3The game throws another monkey wrench at players by means of special cards. Shallow waters cards must all be cleared in order to open up reef cards. Some cards are considered broken, and you must unearth a repair kit to unlock them. Octopus cards must be used twice before they’re removed from the board. A cannonball card gives you a ball that you can fire to keep a combo going with a new card, something that has plenty of obvious benefits. Then there’s the roulette card, which can give you call kinds of effects, as well as minigames that can benefit and/or harm you depending on what you get.

It’s clear that an attempt was made to mix things up. However, in the end, the game gets quite repetitive. After all, you’re still just clearing cards. Also, there are a number of issues with the game that seemingly go with the territory. There is a huge luck factor, as you can draw card after card that you can’t play. Another issue arises with those special cards. Since you’re supposed to be going for combos, it would stand to reason that creating a large pool of potential plays would be a wise decision. However, some levels have you having to clear half of the board before you can tackle the other half. Large combos are impossible, as you have a very small pool to play around with. It’s definite problem. Also, there’s nothing worse than a couple of bad hands ruining a ten stage level and forcing you to replay said level. The game can require a pretty large time investment, and having to replay a half hour stage multiple times in a row can be incredibly frustrating.

For all those flaws though, the game has a strange addictive quality to it. I’ve played for hours at a time, and I’ve ignored the world around me while clicking on cards. In that way, the game is a pretty good time killer, and the bonus stuff certainly gives it a good deal more intrigue than regular Solitaire. If you’re looking for a time killer, and you like these kinds of games, this is certainly worth a look.

Short Attention Span Summary
Seven Seas Solitaire certainly isn’t going to wow potential players or be a contender when end of the year awards are discussed. It is what it is, which is to say, a simple Solitaire game with a few tricks up its sleeve to help it stand out from the crowd. Solitaire fans looking for a change of a pace should definitely head over to Big Fish and download the trial. If it gels with you, you’ll find a substantial amount of time killing, card removing fun. For anyone else, this is just another Solitaire game.



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