Tuesday, March 1, 2005

GameBox Solitaire, twice the Solitaire, twenty times the game

WE GOT GAME!

By David Silver

Solitaire is one of the most popular game genres for the Palm OS. Hundreds of choices exist, ranging from utterly pathetic to utterly amazing. One such solitaire game is actually two, PDAMill's GameBox Solitaire and GameBox Solitaire II. Where on the scale do they range? Read on to find out.

Despite their radically different names, both games are very similar, so this review will cover both simultaneously, noting the important differences. Whenever I refer to "Solitaire" with a capital, I'm referring to the program. When written in lower case, it will refer to the game genre.

The primary difference, naturally, is the type of solitaire each game allows you to play, with each program offering you ten different variations. Solitaire offers Blind Alleys, Canfield, Chinese, East Haven, Fourteen out, Freecell, Golf, Klondike, Pyramid, and Pyramid golf shown in the game selection in Figure A.

FIGURE A

Solitaire offers ten different games to play. (click for larger image)

In Figure B, you'll find the game selection screen for Solitaire II, offering Australian, Bastion, Eagle Wings, Five Piles, Nestor, Penguin, Puss's Corner, Scorpion, Spider, and Yukon.

FIGURE B

Solitaire II gives you an additional ten games. (click for larger image)

Game play

The real heart of the programs is in the identical game screen they share, shown in Figure C.

FIGURE C

Both games offer a very clean, pleasant looking interface. (click for larger image)

Both games offer a very classic interface, with the cards located on the bottom of the screen and a toolbar at the top. The toolbar offers various options, including Deal, Replay, Undo, Hint, Mute and a timer showing how long you've been playing a game. The cards are neatly spaced, with plenty of room between rows, eliminating accidental taps. I find that long tableaus often get cramped at the bottom of the screen, but most of the time there's more than enough room.

One unfortunate feature of the program is its complete control of the screen. As a T3 user, I've grown accustomed to the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. However, both programs hide the toolbar. This allows for greater playing space, but also requires a few extra taps to exit the program, which is accomplished via an "Exit" button in the corner of the screen. In addition, the program also forces landscape-capable models to be in landscape mode, preventing those of us that enjoy vertical games from choosing that option.

Another feature offered is a relatively detailed statistics screen. These statistics serve no practical purpose, but can be fun to look at and are great for backing up any solitaire-related boasts you make. A warning, however: If you play as well as I do, I suggest you avoid looking at the statistics.