AcidSpider for Palm OS

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, April 2005
Published by: Red Mercury Software
Requires: alm OS 3.5 or higher, color or grayscale handheld, fully OS5 compatible
MSRP: US$14.95

Is this really it? A Solitaire version in which every game is winnable? Apparently true, AcidSpider is just such a creature. But while we pride ourselves on the incredible amount of time we spend (waste?) on pointlessly absorbing games, the notion of an always-winnable solitaire version was initially met by the Kickstartnews gang with several derisive hoots. After all, if the venerable pursuit of solitaire in its myriad forms is not going to be fraught with frustration and occasionally intensive stress, sporadically interrupted by brief but immensely satisfying flashes of relief, what's the darn point anyway? Always winnable? Surely you jest?

AcidSpider is a solitaire card game played with two decks of cards. The goal is to move all 104 cards to the eight home cells in the upper right corner of the playfield. In order to move cards to the home cells, cards must first be grouped together in suit, in descending order columns (King down through Ace). This version of the game is Red Mercury's variation on the classic. There are a number of Spider variants including Coleopter, King Edward, Mrs Mop, Rouge et Noir, Scarab, Simple Simon and Scorpion. It's fair to say that Spider is the generic name for any game of patience in which the foundation-cards are not played to the center, but in which sequences are built within the layout on the playfield. We tested AcidSpider on a PalmOne Treo 650, a Sony Clie TH55 and an older Sony PEG-S360C. The game appears to be fully compatible with all three devices.

The game play sounds simple, doesn't it? Don't be deceived. It's deceptively complex. Although it starts easily enough with ten columns dealt (with one card face up at the bottom of each column), when you run out of moves with existing face cards, there's no choice but to tap the decks in order to get a deal. Do that and the game automatically deals ten cards—one for each remaining column on the playfield. That means any runs you had going now have a random card at the bottom. It's bedeviling, absorbing and addictive. And that's the rating with the game set to deal only one suit of cards. For a more challenging game, choose difficulty level 2 (two suits of cards). For an infinitely more challenging game, select all four standard suits. Red Mercury insists that any game, including one which uses all four suits, is winnable. The problem is that after several weeks of game play, I've won a bunch of one suit games, a couple of two suit games, and managed nothing at all with four suit attempts. So I am pouting and I am here to tell you that Red Mercury is populated by deceitful fiends who have duped me into believing I can win a four-suit game. I curse them to the depths of purgatory for luring me into this addictive thing.

Red Mercury puts a lot of detailed development effort into their games. There are lots of game tweaks to play with including backgrounds, statistic settings, battery meter display and plenty of game setting adjustments, hint switches, active game tutorials and so on. To keep the playing field interesting, you can use background photos from any source including the camera built into your PDA or SmartPhone. The stats database keeps track of running win/loss record and percentage, daily win/loss record, time played, winning streaks, losing streaks, your fastest game, best game (fewest number of moves) and several details.

Cons: There are few, beside the embarrassment of losing at a solitaire game which allegedly is always winnable. If I can win just one four-suit game, I'll buy everybody lunch. Slow startup of 10-15 seconds depending on your PDA processor. Startup is also not helped by the animated AcidSpider logo which motions into position at the bottom of the playfield whenever you launch the game.

Pros: Nicely done, infinitely engrossing time waster. Superb—and as far as we know, unique—active tutorial mode called EZPlay, which does a great job of teaching you the game and getting you right into it. Nicely designed Hints engine that can be turned on and off on the fly. Sitting around in the dentist's waiting room? Pull out the PDA and play a little AcidSpider. Standing in line for concert tickets? Pull out the PDA and play a little AcidSpider. Waiting for your daughter to get out of the bathroom in the morning? Pull out the PDA and play a little AcidSpider. Waiting in a restaurant for your blind date to show up? Pull out the PDA and play a little AcidSpider. I could go on. Red Mercury has done something rather good with their programming too because AcidSpider runs noticeably faster than AcidSolitaire, especially on older PDAs such as the Sony PEG S360C. According to Alphonse Moyse, world-renowned solitaire expert writing in 150 Ways to play Solitaire ". . . the devotees of Spider, who are legion, claim that it's the king of all solitaires. Certainly few others can give you quite the same combination of luck of the deal plus extraordinary opportunities to overcome bad luck by skillful manipulations." I couldn't agree more. Highly recommended for solitaire nuts and anyone who's thinking about purchasing their first PDA solitaire game.

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