Acid Solitaire v3.0 & Acid Freecell v3.0 - PalmOS

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, January 2004, send e-mail
Published by: Red Mercury, go to the web site
Requires: Palm OS 3.5 or higher (OS 5 to take advantage of advanced features), color display, a little free time here and there
MSRP: $14.95

There are games and then there are, well, games. Games of chance, games of action, games of challenge and games of idly useless amusement. Then, of course, there's Klondike and Freecell. Of the myriad variants (and by the way, which one really was the original?), the Deal 3 version of Klondike (sometimes called Patience) and the classic version of Freecell are the most widely played and understood (Spider, Yukon, Pyramid, Accordion, Penguin, Canfield, Golf and Monte Carlo solitaire fanatics may argue). There are many solitaire games available for the Palm operating system - at last count there were well over 40 different individual releases and collections, encompassing over 200 different solitaire games available just for PalmOS.

Install AcidSolitaire (it's classic Klondike or Patience) or AcidFreecell just as you would any other Palm programs. After a HotSync the game is available on your PDA. Configuration is unique in these Red Mercury versions because you can select from a variety of supplied background photos and graphics, choose one of your own photos or graphics, set card transparency (to see more of your chosen background during game play), and set a variety of direct game play options. AcidSolitaire and AcidFreecell both feature a full screen statistics tracking function which after the completion of a game, updates itself and displays your current stats: number of games played, percentage of wins, number of wins, current win streak, best streak, fastest game, fewest number of moves in a winning game, total minutes played since installation, number of minutes played today, and the current losing streak. There are right-hand and left-hand modes, card animations (you can toggle them off if they become irritating or distracting), drag & drop to move, tap to move and even an animated logo you can play with. There is an awful lot packed into a rather small bit of code (approximately 372KB each). Cards (numbers, suits and colors) are clearly rendered.

For the completely uninitiated, classic Klondike (AcidSolitaire) is the game in which you deal seven columns of cards, from left to right, increasing each column by one card (all face down until the last card which is face up). The rest of the cards remain in the deck face down. The goal is to alternate suit colors in descending order in each column. Aces go to four separate stacks (foundations) at the top of the game screen. To win, you've got to fill all four foundations, suit by suit, from ace up to King. Choose cards either by selecting from the last face up card in a column or moving all or part of the face up column to another, or by dealing 3 at a time from the deck. Freecell is more complex. The goal is still to move all 52 cards into four separate foundations, but the columns which are dealt at the beginning of a game are all face up, in four columns of seven and four columns of six. You get four free cells at the top of the game screen which can be used to temporarily hold cards moved off columns in order to get at alternating suit colors and different card numbers. Fun stuff. Requires concentration.

Cons: The No More Moves feature which pops up and flashes onscreen, tells you that there are literally no more moves. However, it's still possible to win if you go into the Options dialog and turn off Deal 3, which means that you can actually keep playing by dealing single cards from the stack instead of three at a time. The whole point of classic Klondike is that it's supposed to be a bit of guessing game - you never know when even a pathetic opening can turn into win. Ditto for the Auto-Move feature which automatically moves non-strategic cards for you (in Deal 3 or single turn mode), making some Undo actions impossible until you switch off Auto-Move. No option to change card styles.

Pros: Fast response to taps. Despite the graphic-intensive nature of the implementation, drag & drop and tap selections were smooth and immediate on our Palm Zire 71. Lots of statistical data on wins, losses, percentages, etc. Ability to change background image using any photo or graphic on your PDA and randomly cycle backgrounds if you like. Despite my Con above, being able to switch in and out of Deal 3 and Auto-Move on the fly definitely increases your chance of winning each hand - if you can live with your 'cheating' afterward mind you! Intelligent programming - Auto-Move will also automatically move cards to the foundations as long as the program determines that making the move won't affect the outcome of the game, leaving the truly strategic decisions to you. These are the most complete single versions of Klondike and Freecell we've seen for PalmOS. These versions of the games are definitely for serious players. Since receiving the games for review they've been our primary idle-time wasters (it's been quite a few weeks!). Highly recommended.

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