Super Solitaire

Super Solitaire
2
Game Name: Super Solitaire
Platforms: Super NES
Publisher(s): Extreme Entertainment Group, Inc.
Developer(s): Beam Software Pty., Ltd.
Genre(s): Card Games
Release Date: Jan. 1994

It’s solitaire.

 

The Good

Hey, you don’t have to shuffle.

The Bad

If the power’s out, you may have to deal with shuffling real cards.

 

 

 

 

What? What do you mean that wasn’t good enough? Why not? It’s solitaire, you’ve fucking played solitaire before…how do I know? I guarantee it’s on whatever device you’re reading this on. You have this game. No, you know what, I’m up anyway, so since you were so damned insistent, let’s light this candle properly.

...I think I might be stuck now...

…I think I might be stuck now…

I suppose I’m being a bit rough on Super Solitaire from the start, but I can’t possibly imagine who this game was for. Granted, this came out before the advent of a computer in every house  and smartphones in every pocket, so maybe you had to work a little harder for your digital solitaire fix back then, but I still can’t fathom the idea of someone plunking down $59.99 (!) in 1994 dollars (!!), regardless. And yet, had this game sold zero copies, we probably would have heard about it somewhere, so someone indeed took the plunge and shelled out for this. Were they complete suckers, or is there something more going on here that somewhat justifies such an expense?

Super Solitaire brings twelve different forms of solitaire to the table, from more familiar variations like Klondike (regular Solitaire), Freecell, and Pyramid, to more obscure styles like Florentine, Cruel, and Aces Up, so there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find a game you already enjoy or a new one that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by. If you’re unfamiliar with a game, you can check what its objective is in the in-game menu, but they tend to be the most concise descriptions possible, and can still be a bit vague. The menu also allows you to get a hint, see all available moves, and has a little glossary, so if you don’t know what a tableau or a foundation pile is, you can do a quick check. If you’re stuck, you can elect to start an entirely new game, or take a mulligan and start over with the same layout, if you feel you know where things started to come off the tracks and reverse your mistake, as well as simply undoing your last move.

You can play each game individually, or in a tournament mode where you can run through all 12 back-to-back, or even select just a handful of favorites to play. Score is kept in the form of money; you start each game 52 dollars in the hole and work your way back to the black five dollars at a time for each card you put in a foundation pile, but realistically, this is kinda meaningless, I think most people take the “win or lose” approach to solitaire and don’t need the shades of gray of not winning the game but not losing money…and, well, that’s about it for gameplay.

This is "Dozen't Matter", and it's not bad, actually...

This is “Dozen’t Matter”, and it’s not bad, actually…

There are, however, plenty of options to be found here. You can use either the regular controller or the generally underutilized SNES mouse, which is probably the best way to go, although the cursor zips around pretty quickly with the mouse, even on the slowest setting. You can select how many cards you want to turn over in certain games, and choose different variations of a certain game. You can play in five different languages, which is a nice touch, as well as select from three different background themes, a handful of designs for card backs,  and three different styles of sound effects, although they’ll probably grate on your nerves if you use them for longer than a few minutes, and of course, you have the choice to turn sounds off altogether.

You can also get a code to pick up a game where you left off, although instead of a simple save feature, here, it comes in the form of a password made of different playing cards, which I can only assume was a safeguard to keep others from loading up your save and sabotaging all your work. Also, true to its PC brethren, there’s an “About” section within the menu that basically serves as the Version information and lists the handful of designers.

Each game features its own background art, specific to the theme; Klondike is played with a snowy mountaintop background, and Florentine has a Gothic-style medieval cathedral. You shouldn’t have any problems discerning which card you’re looking at, although I would not have wanted to play this on a small, low-definition television like you probably would’ve had to when it was released. Your cursor is also large and easily spotted against any background, which never hurts. Yes/No questions are answered by clicking either an O or an X, which seems a bit unnecessary, and every now and then I’d forget which was which and choose the wrong thing, after all, if you want to quit a game, clicking on the X is pretty much instinct, but I suppose the developers were trying to streamline the game and make it possible to play with as little reading required as possible. This even extends to the game selection screen, where each game has a little picture, like “Dozen’t Matter” being represented by a dozen eggs or Golf being represented as a sailboat…no, just kidding, it’s a golf club.

AHHHHH KILL IT WITH FIRE!

AHHHHH KILL IT WITH FIRE!

One thing I did notice is that I do not believe that every game is actually winnable; maybe I’m just not a solitaire savant, but I’m pretty sure that you will sometimes get layouts that are just mathematically impossible to complete, and there’s no option to just get winnable layouts, so every now and then, you will be fighting a futile effort without realizing it at first. Also, there are certain games (Aces Up shoots to mind, especially) that are pretty much entirely dictated by pure dumb luck, and as much as I hate to keep bringing up the price point, I would be very perturbed if I’d just spent sixty bucks on a game and found out that it was chock-full of unwinnable situations and sections that were just a pure crap shoot.

All in all, Super Solitaire finds itself in an unenviable position. It does exactly what it says on the box, and does it well for all intents and purposes, which is always admirable, but at the same time, I can’t imagine anyone willing to pay full face value for it, nor can I imagine a publisher thinking that a solitaire game, no matter how good, would get people racing to the store and running with their wallets out. A friend of mine and I actually discussed this game at great length (although I doubt she was nearly as enthralled by the topic as I was) and she posited that this was possibly just leftover code and other assets that somebody decided to re-heat in the form of this game, which would make more sense, but would be an even more shameless cash grab. Whether that’s true or not, I’ve no idea, but I myself would sum up Super Solitaire as being good for what it is, but what it is probably isn’t going to interest you…now if I find a Super Nintendo version of Space Cadet 3D Pinball, someone’s going to have to answer some questions.

 

The Good

12 different Solitaire variants in five languages is pretty cool, plenty of options, and I think the background art is a nice touch.

The Bad

Even a die-hard Solitaire fanatic, someone who lives and breathes only to keep flipping those cards over, would have a hard time justifying purchasing this, then or now.

 

4 Comments

  1. The J Man says:

    All right. You’ve skillfully covered two weird and arguably pointless video game versions of classic physical games. I bet you don’t have a third. That’s right. I’m calling you out!

  2. CarlMarksGuy says:

    I’d like to think that I have at least a tiny bit of culpability for this review happening 😀 (also if my attempts at HTML below eff up off the charts, feel free to pare it back to newlines & asterisks!)

    Actually the backgrounds look pretty BA; lots of SNES games would be lucky to have as cool an egypt-y layout as that 1st picture (Stargate included). I especially like that “Doesn’t Matter” one, where we get this baffling series of entities:
    oddly-tinted cicaeda
    rhino
    perch
    Jacques Cousteau
    the Green Grub from Kid Niki: Radical Ninja
    Smilin’ Mr. Horse…presumably fresh from having reversed Johnny Slater‘s figure four leg-lock

    Also, I learned that “Freecell” is a subspeices of Solitaire, and that’s a valuable lesson for any Windows user!

    Anyway, this game could also add fuel to a slightly DIFFERENT Pointless SNES Reviewing fire: PC games that were ported to the SNES. Let me just say…Carmen Santiago? Though (startlingly) Math Blasters is actually pretty entertaining for an Edutainment game…I could easily name a dozen SNES games I enjoyed less.

    • The J Man says:

      Actually it recognized your name (I guess), saw the email didn’t match, and threw it to moderation instead of spam. Pretty smart.

      First time this has happened. Now that I know this is how it handles such things, I feel a little better at just dumping the spam cache without looking at it. Also means the site regulars *shouldn’t* have to worry about retyping “eaten” messages – I should be able to approve when I make my next rounds.

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