Review: Flipflop Solitaire22 Nov 2017 0
Review: Flipflop Solitaire
Released 18 Nov 2017
Variants of the solo card game Solitaire have been around for a long time. Let us take a look at the distant past, beyond the days of Windows 3.0, to the second-half of the nineteenth century. Back then the chattering classes liked nothing better than to spend an evening flicking through Dick's Games of Patience before tinkering with their tableaux.
Flipflop Solitaire is not designer Zach Gage’s first attempt to create an original solitaire variant. A couple of years ago he created the highly regarded Sage Solitaire. That game was the result of an unlikely night of passion in which the stay-at-home Miss Solitaire and the badass Mr Poker got it on. Flipflop Solitaire offers a more traditional approach but still manages to introduce a few interesting tweaks.
Flipflop Solitaire is based on the Spider variant of solitaire that has lurked on every computer since the beginning of time. Indeed, its sticky web has ensnared office workers all over the world, which must have been the cause of millions of hours of lost productivity. Spider uses two decks of cards, half of which are randomly arranged into ten stacks. The goal is to convert this random jumble of cards into eight neat piles, hence forming the spider’s legs.
First of all, Zach began to dissect the spider. He decided to cut the number of piles in half, five stacks being much more manageable on a smartphone screen. However, this alone would just severely reduce a player’s choices and make for a very frustrating experience. To compensate for this limitation Mr Gage had the brilliant idea of allowing the player to stack cards in either ascending or descending order, with the added option to freely flip between the two. Hence, the game’s title – and there was I assuming that with the ambient sounds of the sea that the game was a tribute to popular beach footwear.
The new rules mean that in Flipflop Solitaire you can place an eight or a six on a seven. If you decide to step down and play a six then there is nothing stopping you from then stepping back up to a seven. However, there is one caveat in that to move a stack the cards not only have to be in order but also have to contain cards of a single suit.
Another really neat idea is the way that the game naturally incorporates escalating levels of difficulty. Initially, you may want to elect to play using four suits of the same colour, which makes shifting the cards around considerably easier. Then, as your skills progress, you can add additional suits of cards up to a maximum of five. The five-suit game offers a stern challenge, although the designer states that 99% of deals are winnable. Your final score is based on a combination of the number of turns taken, undos used and how fast you clear the cards. These three targets also play a significant role in the games 102 achievements. The game offers a nice change of pace: in one game you may decide to play with cards of a single suit and blaze through as quickly as possible, making liberal use of the unlimited undos. In the next game you may methodically chip away at a five-suit challenge and try to complete the game in as few turns as possible.
The free version of the game offers a generous amount of options. Pay an extra $2.99 and you remove the advertisements and open the challenging five-suit variant and an extended single suit challenge. There are also a couple of cosmetic additions that gives access to a wider choice of background artwork and card backs. Unfortunately, you still have only two ambient soundtracks to choose from. I ended up sticking with the relaxing sound of waves crashing on a beach. The trickling water of the alternative one soon had me sitting with my legs crossed as I desperately tried to finish my game before answering a call of nature.
Zach Gage is a confident and innovative designer, who specialises in adding new elements to old games, just take a look at Typeshift and Really Bad Chess. His experience in designing smartphone games ensures that graphics are bright and bold and that the single-tap interface is both precise and silky smooth. Zach describes a traditional game of solitaire in terms of untying knots of cards into sequences, before reversing them into neatly ordered stacks. The difference in Flipflop Solitaire is that the player must first retie the knots into more manageable knots. These are then in turn unravelled into ordered stacks.
It is amazing how one simple change refreshes the whole concept. Despite wasting many an hour on Microsoft Solitaire, this version still feels fresh and compelling. There is still that moment of immense satisfaction when you think that your game is over, only to spot a killer move that opens up the whole board. There is still the tension and anticipation when you hit deal and see what lady luck has to offer. Speaking of luck, the new mechanics in Flipflop Solitaire make the game feel much less luck based
Many may dismiss Flipflop Solitaire as yet another solitaire game but happily it is possible to find sparks of genius in the most mundane of places. If you have no interest in Solitaire then this isn’t going to change your mind, it may also struggle to attract a casual audience, as it is a barebones app with no gimmicky mascots or tacked-on theme. For players familiar with the traditional version there will initially a bit of a learning curve as your brain gets accustomed to the demands of taking a more flexible approach. However, the effort is well worth it, so download it for free; you have nothing to lose - apart from hours of your life.