Home Run Solitaire
After dragons, restaurants and Christmas, The Revills Games is back with another themed solitaire title to help make your free time disappear. This time they have chosen baseball as the subject matter in a game that spans twenty levels and 180 innings. As a rookie member of the “Solitaire Strikers” you need to help lead the team from try outs and training all the way to the grand final, while beating every time that stands in your way. Home Run Solitaire fully embraces the baseball theme with its visuals and audio, but it is still solitaire, so it remains very enjoyable even if you are not a fan of the actual sport.
Like their previous solitaire titles, the goal of Home Run Solitaire is very straightforward. Each “inning” presents you with stacks of face-down cards that you need to clear. This is accomplished by clicking cards that are a number or higher or lower than the face-up foundation card. If none of the cards that are left can be played you can uncover one from your draw pile to continue, but the innings ends if this pile is empty. This means that luck plays a big role in whether you succeed or not, but as you progress and the layouts of the cards on the tables become more complex you can also turn the odds slightly in your favor. This is done via the store items that can be bought using the in-game cash you earn while playing. You are awarded cash simply for removing cards, but can boost the amount by playing cards that are the same suit as the foundation card. It is also recommended that you try and match as many cards in a row as possible to build up your combo as this boosts your income even more.
Store items are divided into active and passive categories, with the latter requiring you to wait until they have recharged until you can use them again. Active abilities range from a “Lightning Strike Bat” for removing all the top cards on the table to a “Baseball Mascot” that only removes one random card. There is a total of seven different active abilities on offer, but you can only take four of them with you at a time, so you have to pick carefully. There is no such limit for the passive abilities, which is good as they are just as useful. passive abilities range from “Ice Cream” that provides you with an extra “Undo” at the start of innings to a “Catchers Mask” for adding an extra card to the deck at the start of the level and “Camera” for showing how many cards are left in your draw pile.
Home Run Solitaire features three different difficulty levels, which means the game can be enjoyed by players of all skill levels. Playing on “Casual” ensures that you have a better chance of finding special cards while “Hard” tones down the special cards considerably and doesn’t allow you to pair a King with an Ace or vice versa. We completed the game on the “Normal” difficulty level and it still took quite a few hours to reach the grand final and earn every single achievement. Considering the low asking price, Home Run Solitaire definitely delivers when it comes to value for money.
Fans of The Revills Games will know that they not only create good solitaire games, but also love to spice things up with some added twists. In Home Run Solitaire, each inning has specific requirements for completion. These take the form of a certain number of stars that must be reached as well as a number of baseballs that need to be found. The stars are gained simply by removing cards from the table, but the baseballs are attached to specific cards. For all the perfectionists out there, you can also aim to clear every card from the table. If you fail to reach the requirements for completing a level you can still choose to skip it and move ahead, but you won’t earn any stars. This is great if you feel like you are stuck and you can always return to levels you skipped later if you require more stars to unlock new levels.
As you progress through the game (and face off against teams with names like the Arizona Tumbleweeds, Nevada Aliens, California Rockers and Georgia Zombies) the difficulty increases thanks to locked stacks. These are stacks of cards that cannot be accessed until they are “unlocked” with a corresponding card, which is usually found underneath a pile of other cards. From a home plate that requires a runner card to an umpire that requires a whistle card and even some grass that requires a lawnmower card, these obstacles add an additional strategic layer to the game. Uncovering special cards also reward you in the form of mini-games that can be played to earn extra cash. All of these mini-games are played against a clock, so they don’t disrupt the solitaire too much, but can also be skipped or even completely disabled if they are not your cup of tea. We quite enjoyed the Match-3 mini-games as well as the Memory Match ones, but the puzzle mini game where you are required to rotate squares until the picture is completed is a little less entertaining. The game even throws in a couple of hidden object scenes where you have to search for items like baseball bats and balls. Interestingly enough, Home Run Solitaire gives you access to a couple of mini-games directly from the main menu, but these are not the mini-games you encounter during the actual game. Instead, you can play Freeplay, TriPeaks or Five Peaks, which are all variations of Solitaire and provide the game with some nice replay value if you complete the story mode.
In terms of presentation Home Run Solitaire does a good job with the baseball theme and features some nice backgrounds that are related to the sport. You also get to choose from three different styles for the card faces and ten different ones for the card backs. Even the cursor can be customized with options like a hotdog, baseball bat and catchers mitt. Since the story mode features a rookie player making a name for him or herself, you also get to choose an avatar for your character. The Revills Games included a nice diverse selection of characters to choose from and while your choice doesn’t have any impact on the story or gameplay, it does give the game a more polished feel.
During story mode, you’ll also encounter a couple of characters, such as Frank and Sam, the commentators with a penchant for bad puns. All of the characters, right down to a squirrel named Lucky, are fully voiced, which is a nice touch. The game also features plenty of crisp sound effects like the crack of a baseball bat hitting a ball and voice snippets, such as a shout of “Strike One!” when you make a wrong match. In addition, the soundtrack is suitably mellow, so it never becomes intrusive or annoying. Since the sound and music volumes can be adjusted independently, you can customize the audio to your liking.
Although Home Run Solitaire features slightly less levels than previous titles from The Revills Games, it still features hours of fun if you are a fan of the genre. The actual Solitaire elements are as polished and addictive as ever, so even if you are not too keen on baseball, you’ll still have fun with the game. The overall presentation is also as slick as we’ve come to expect from this developer, so don’t hesitate to add this title to your library.