I kinda suck at reviewing. My style could best be called Spoiler Alert [for proof, see my posts about Twilight]. But, I kinda want to do it anyway, because ‘reviewing’ seems like one of the easiest ways to produce content — it’s not like I’m going to pop out a kid or anything, and I’m going to run out of interesting things to say about being a mental Superfund Site.
So let’s start small, with Solitaire Blitz — a silly social game on Facebook.
Now, I know that starting with a game like this is going to wreck any past or future attempts at establishing my credibility as a female who also plays videogames, but fuck you, that’s a topic for another post.
Solitaire Blitz is a Facebook game by the makers of Bejewelled Blitz. And it’s pretty much what it sounds like, except not really.
Based on the name, you’re probably picturing the game that Windows labels ‘Solitaire’, and wondering how the hell you’re expected to finish that in the standard minute that all ‘Blitz’ style games give you. That’s where the ‘not really’ starts, because it’s not. That version is called Klondike, and this version is…not Klondike. Or Freecell. Or Spider.
It’s something that’s played with two decks, with jokers. You’ve got seven stacks with one card face up at the top of each, and up to three cards that you can play cards from those stacks onto. Also, a deck that you deal from when you can’t play any more. ‘Play’ here means that you can put any card, suit is irrelevant, onto those three up there as long as it’s one up or one down from the card that’s currently there.
And it’s not really sixty seconds either, unless you’re really slow or really unlucky, because if you get all the play-from stacks down below a certain point before the ‘extra time’ line eats itself, you get extra time.
The entire thing is wrapped in this storyline that makes no sense. You go from island to island, and there are three areas on each island, and you’re trying to collect an arbitrary number of ‘treasures’ to get the ‘reward’ for each area [one ‘treasure’ is a bunch of puppies that you’re supposed to be ‘rescuing’, although I don’t know how they’re alive because you’re ‘rescuing’ them from pits hidden under the stacks of the cards, and I don’t think puppies can survive under water for over a minute when they’re buried under piles of dirt and gigantic playing cards, let alone the three actual days it sometimes takes to get through the fucking stages].
This all sounds bland and inoffensive and time-wasting, right? Well, it is. But now it’s time for the problems.
The gameplay itself is more luck than skill, because the order of all the cards is random, and you can run out of moves way before you clear anything if you’re dealt a really shitty hand. And it’s padded way the fuck out, because every win doesn’t reveal a treasure, and you can be facing a trail from starting point to location [you ‘travel’ by playing a round and winning, and remember when I mentioned the islands? Yeah, you’re apparently on a motherfucking boat — this will be important, so I probably should’ve mentioned it earlier] that’s thirty won-games long.
And there’s a fucking energy system.
You’re probably wondering, “What’s an energy system?” Possibly because you’re not a casual social gamer. It’s a term I made up, because I don’t know the proper term and can’t be bothered to google it. It means ‘You have a set number of plays before you run out of the ability to play’. It’s like a resurrection of the fucking ‘Continues’ from very old games, back when developers were still wobbly and uncertain about this whole ‘not having to use quarters like oxygen’ concept. You get five energy, the occasional reward of ‘extra energy’, and the standard set of five takes ten minutes each to refill.
And I’m sure you can buy more with real money, and maybe even send energy as a gift. I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t bothered. If I’m out of energy, I just quit for a while, and I haven’t looked at the gifting system.
I’m sure it’s just as fucking broken as the arbitrary-yet-mandatory social aspect of the game.
Remember the islands I mentioned? And possibly mentioned again because I forgot I mentioned it a first time? Once you’ve finished those three levels, you have to sail to the next one. And you have to get a crew, because the last crew decided that one hundred years before your fucking mast honestly wasn’t a better deal than dying after all.
Sometimes, you can buy your way out of this with the silver you earn while playing the game. Other times, the game just drops all pretences and says, ‘What, you don’t have enough friends who waste their time the same way you do? Here’s a blatant, actual cash pricetag.’
When you start out, you only need two friends, or two dollars to hire a crew. Where I am currently, you need four friends or six actual dollars.
Which, again, would all be just fucking dandy if the fucking ‘hire friend’ function fucking worked. You seriously have a better chance of surviving at six-man, no-spin Russian Roulette than actually getting a request filled on the first go. Oh, and you’re the sixth man. And the first five don’t have a spiffy new cranial piercing.
Honestly, do we have to have this truly enforced social aspect in our stupid social games? And do we have to be so fucking blatant about the money-hunger? I know you don’t fucking need it, PopCap, because you’re already making far too much. And I know you know better, because Bejewelled Blitz is probably one of the most popular Facebook games. And that’s a game where the only social aspect that’s rigidly enforced is the leaderboard — which, of course, Solitaire Blitz has.
Forcing me to get help from friends isn’t going to make me try to talk friends into playing it, or admit my friendless-loser status and just throw my fucking wallet at you — it’s going to make me quit your fucking game and delete all permissions. And I know you don’t really give a shit about one lonely player — you can’t even see me from that $100 million foothill of the fucking EA Games mountain range.
Wait, PopCap are owned by EA? Fucking Christ, it all makes sense now. Never-fucking-mind.