I'll be perfectly honest with you. I'm not a big fan of PC card games. There's no reason in particular why I generally avoid such games; I just do. Maybe I'm repressing some psychosocial tragedy involving myself and a deck of cards during my formative years. Or maybe not. Whatever the case, my expectations were low as I grudgingly installed the Hoyle series...
...and was delightfully surprised.
Hoyle Blackjack and Hoyle Solitaire (sold separately) completely changed my belief that computer card games belong in the "Games for People who have Lost the Will to Live" bin. Smooth graphics, easy to learn interface, and a couple of nifty extras make these games quite addictive and a great way to kill a few more of those pesky brain cells.
Blackjack is a well-done rendition of the classic casino game. For those of you who have never played the game, here's a brief explanation. Cards are dealt to each player and the dealer, and whoever comes closest to 21 without going over wins (all players compete against the dealer). Players start with a bankroll of $5000, with the ultimate goal of hoarding a cool million. There are three modes of play available: Tutorial, Tournament, and Casino. Tutorial mode comes complete with drop down menus that suggest strategies for certain situations, while Tournament mode is where the big money is made. Casino mode is the default play level.
The graphics are pretty cool, although a little more variety would have been nice. More CPU controlled characters would have helped, as well as some sort of a dealer graphic. The game table looks strikingly real (although the cigarette ashes are missing).
By far the strongest facet of Blackjack lies in its attempt to create a realistic environment for the gamer. Most aspects of the game are under the player's control, including the gender and "attitude" of the dealer (dealer voices are possible in CD mode only). This includes the feeling of helplessness and shame when one loses over $500,000 of hard earned cash on a single bet (I needed a six, I got a seven). You can play by the rules of a number of different cities, including Vegas and Atlantic City. And what gambling game would be complete without the ever present lure of the ATM? Really the only thing missing here is the watered down beer (those of you underage will just have to wait...).
Solitaire has been a crowd pleaser since its inception, the perfect game for people stuck at home with the flu. The Hoyle version includes 28 different games. Among these are Klondike, Poker Square (personal fave), Pyramid, and Canfield. An on-line tutorial makes it easy to learn each game, regardless of whether or not you've ever played before.
Solitaire can quickly become a minor obsession. After running through all 28 games, I found myself running through all 28 again...and again...and again. This game is ADDICTIVE. With a capital ADDICT. I got a raging flu right after receiving the game, so the fact that my butt was glued to the chair for four days had little impact on my social life. You may not be so lucky...
The graphics and sound are good, as well as being fully optioned. You can change backgrounds, card designs, music, and difficulty to meet your desire. The music choices range from classical to "mellow" (look out John Tesh) to the funkified "urban" (get down, get down...). An added surprise is the "Card Flip" game. This is a mindless exercise involving flipping cards into different objects. Yet somehow this becomes addictive as well (maybe it was the fever or something).
Overall, the Hoyle series manages to break through the humdrum cloud of PC card gaming by offering two well-planned games. If you dig cards, then you should dig this.