Heartwild Solitaire: Book Two
Do you enjoy reading badly punctuated stories about romantic heroines dancing the masochism tango with a number of dully irritating heroes in some kind of badly researched version of Victorian England? No? What if I throw in some absurd accents to seal the deal? Still no? Ok then, I'll add a full helping of solitaire card games with packaged with gorgeous artwork. There you have it, everything a card game/romance novel lover could want, all bundled together in Heartwild Solitaire: Book Two.
The gameplay is somewhat similar to mahjong solitaire, only instead of matching tiles to clear the board, you click on cards which are one higher or lower than the draw card. Upon running out of plays, deal another card. Like mahjong solitaire, the challenge is in strategically eliminating cards that have lots of cards buried under them and using cards with nothing under them only to keep a streak going. Power-ups include wildcards, extra card holders, and restores. Bonus points are awarded for clicking a lot of cards quickly and for having cards left in the deck at the end of a level.
For variety, there are also two bonus levels. One involves memorizing a layout (don't panic, the key is to recognize the pattern, such as twos through aces organized by suit color) and quickly switch the cards back into the pattern before the timer runs out. The other is a challenge level where you only have one card in your deck and you attempt to go as long as you can or even clear the board. It's good to save your power-ups for these challenge levels. Although the memory levels increase in difficulty in later levels, you can't fail the bonus levels; it's just an opportunity to raise your score.
Analysis: The lush, soothing colors of the backgrounds and card art, smooth animations, and evocative soundtrack rich in nature sounds, put this game into the minority of truly relaxing computer games. Most computer games, while stress relieving, are also stimulating. Heartwild Solitaire: Book Two is perfect for those times when you just want to soothe yourself.
The sheer length of the game also makes it a great value. I probably averaged about four minutes per level. At two hundred and eighty levels, that ends up being fourteen hours of gameplay to finish this thing, and each level has a unique layout. If you want to design your own levels, the game also includes a level editor.
As for the marketing point of the game, its romance story, well, I did not exaggerate in my opening paragraph. A copy editor with a machete may have been able to make it readable, but as it stands, expect text riddles with inconsistencies and punctuation errors, which is a real shame. You'll probably either find the story So Bad It's Good, or So Bad It's Horrible. Most of the short stories offered in Heartwild Solitaire Classic and the original Heartwild Solitaire were better, so I'm kind of surprised to see the quality drop in this follow-up.
In some ways this works out for the best, since if the story were a gripping page turner, it would be an exercise in frustration, because you only get a three page chapter per ten levels, and this is emphatically not a game for playing for hours at a stretch. This is a game to pick up and play for fifteen minutes while you wait for an anxiety-provoking phone call, or on your laptop in your pajamas in bed. Try it out with that frame of mind, and you won't be disappointed.