Released in March 2009 by Subsoap, Faerie Solitaire is…well, it’s solitaire, and it has faeries so there’s no false advertising to be found. It’s essentially Golf Solitaire (or One Foundation solitaire, whatever term you prefer). A number of cards are dealt in various formations, face up or face down, and you have one stack of cards to deal from. Your goal is to clear the board of all cards, playing them in numerical sequence (A23456789TJQKA)
For example, if your foundation shows an Ace, you can play from the board either a two or a King. Play a two upon it, and you can lay a three or an Ace upon the now-active two, and so on.
It’s solitaire, how is this fun? Solitaire is what you played 20 years ago on your dad’s ancient Windows 3.1 machine in the basement when he was watching TV and keeping you from playing the NES. How does a basic solitaire variant keep things interesting?
- Adventure mode. There’s a plot (I’m most of the way through it, myself) where you travel through Faerie Land, learning more about their plight. Again, not fully through it so I can’t say if it has a fitting conclusion or not, but with a couple more levels to go I can say it’s been pretty OK so far. It’s not riveting, really, it’s just a couple narrated sentences between levels and a ~30 second “cutscene” between worlds but it does the job well enough.
- Challenge levels. Think it’s too easy? The game gives you a few very difficult challenges to play through if you’re up for the task.
- Unlockables. There are 8 unlockable bonuses, from allowing you to undo a play to turning more cards face up (thereby aiding your decision making) to giving you a bonus to your score, all purchasable with in-game funds earned through general gameplay. Each one feels correctly priced, which is a difficult balancing act for any developer. If you save up for an expensive unlock it’ll aid your game enough to warrant the purchase, while splurging on some of the cheaper options has its own benefits so you never feel shorted.
- Pets. Well, they don’t actually do anything, but sometimes upon clearing a stack from the main board you’ll uncover an egg. Hatch that egg in the hatchery and see what pet it becomes; make it active and it gains experience through gameplay until eventually receiving enough to evolve. Have the right number of logs, stones and magic powder (also random drops beneath card stacks, but much more common than even the most common of the eggs) and you can evolve it into its full form. It doesn’t actually do anything or help you in any way, but it takes next to no time and it is something to break up the general monotony of clicking cards.
- Quickplay. As you go through the adventure mode each level is unlocked for play in the quickplay mode, allowing you to go back to a particular set or just pick a random one you’ve already completed. Nice if you feel like playing a short burst but are very far into the game and don’t want to commit to either the super-difficult challenge levels or the end-of-the-line story mode ones.
- Steam achievements, if they’re your thing. I enjoy them, at least.
- Steam trading cards! (Euro Truck Simulator 2 had these as well, but I neglected to mention them at the time.) Again, different strokes.
- Aesthetically, it’s very pretty. You’d think a card game isn’t much to look at or listen to but the artwork and soundtrack in this game were both really well done and deserve commendation.
Why is Faerie Solitaire fun? It’s solitaire, with the additions of variation in difficulty, beautiful scenery, earning pets and powerups to keep you playing just one more level, calming music, catchy (yet somehow not annoying, despite the necessity of repetition) sound effects, and some semblance of an overarching storyline that ties it all together. If solitaire’s not your thing Faerie Solitaire doesn’t have enough to drag you through it kicking & screaming, but if you don’t mind a little solo cardplay I think you’ll find a good 10 hours of enjoyment out of Faerie Solitaire. I paid $2.50 for it on sale, and with 6 hours invested thus far I feel I’ve already gotten more than my money’s worth out of it.