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Publisher: Freeverse    Genre: Board & Card
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: Any CPU    RAM: 20 MB    Hard Disk: 60 MB

3D Crazy Eights
March 4, 2004 | Danny Gallagher

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Anyone who uses a computer on the job more than 80 percent of the time knows the value of a complimentary computer card game like Eric's Solitaire Sampler. When the boss isn't peering over your shoulder looking for an excuse to downsize, it's a great way to mentally remove yourself from the office rat race and mellow out for five lousy minutes.

Plus, it keeps you from finding more harmful office stress relievers like spiking the office water cooler with white wine and watching passersby stop and grab a drink, which could get you fired. Don't ask me how I know that.

But Solitaire can get old quick, not to mention more boring than listening to an economics lecture from Ben Stein on Valium. And while most might consider the card game Crazy Eights for kids, Freeverse Software's 3D Crazy Eights can serve as a nice change of pace. It's a quirky desktop card game with interchangeable characters, backgrounds and rules that can be played alone or online against actual human beings for free.

What a bunch of cards
Unlike the free Solitaire game that came with your computer, you can change more than just the back pattern of the deck of the cards.

Rooms feature seats for four players with three spaces for computer characters or "puppets." Human "puppets" can choose from 18 different characters that range from the ordinary such as a green-eyed, brunette Jennifer (but you can call her "Jen") to the weird such as Cheesebot, a robot who cracks wise in the world's worst French accent. My personal favorite is Zeb, an alien who speaks with a Brooklyn comic accent because if I could be anyone in the computer world, it would be an extraterrestrial who talks like Andrew Dice Clay.

There's a wide selection of personalities in this deck of characters and you're sure to find one that will fit your own. They don't manage to be very funny and can get distracting at times since they repeat some of their phrases at key moments in the game. Melon Mello, an eggplant shaped mass of slime, gets particularly annoying when he's forced to draw cards and says in a spooky tone, "What do you expect? I'm made of ectoplasmic goo!" It's repeated so much in the game that I'm starting to hear it in my sleep.

But the good outweighs the bad and the ugly in the character list. Most of them are nicely drawn and designed and even though their lines get old, they keep the overall design interesting. And if you get sick of one, you can change him or her in the middle of a game without disrupting the action. There's also an iPuppet Guy and Gal character, which is a male and female body with an empty, electronic screen for a head where you can place your own picture. Unfortunately, you can't see yourself when you're playing the solo, non-network game, so it's a moot feature there. Also, it only truly works if you crop out a head shot since it shrinks the entire picture in the frame. But, nonetheless, it's still a creative feature for such a simple game.

The game also features four human characters, three males and a female, if you're longing for human interaction for a change. They're animated in the same stop motion manner as the animated characters and run just as fluidly. They may seem out of place in the computer-drawn backgrounds, but they make for a nice change of pace.

Speaking of which, the backgrounds are also an impressive ingredient of the software recipe. There are 13 locations to choose from and each has four unique variations. Like the characters, there's the plain and ordinary card playing rooms like Central Park and Sophie's Kitchen, a tastefully designed kitchen that would make the "Trading Spaces" people proud to the extreme, and also including a Haunted House complete with ghosts and Alice's Wonderland (tea party sold separately). They're not overly elaborate because they don't try to animate them or make things move while you're concentrating on the game. If they put roaming, moaning ghosts over another character's shoulders during a game, it would just be distracting and the game probably wouldn't run as smoothly.


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