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Publisher: Sugar Games    Genre: Board & Card
Min OS X: 10.3    Hard Disk: 30 MB

5 Realms of Cards
May 20, 2008 | Michael Yanovich

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Whatís there to say about 5 Realms of Cards, other than it has an awkward title? One could start off by explaining what the game is: a new variant of card solitaire with a few twists. Or one could start off by debunking the developer claims that the game is a story-based solitaire game. Itís not. Puzzle Quest is a repetitive puzzle game that is clearly story based, but saying 5 Realms of Cards is story based is akin to saying Donkey Kong is, too. I mean, sure, the entire premise of Donkey Kong is youíve got to save the girl from the gorilla, but Iíd hardly call that one sentence a plot.

So ignore any hype to the contrary before you check this game out. Go into your first round understanding that 5 Realms is a solitaire game that is arbitrarily set in a fairy tale setting, just as Burning Monkey Solitaire is arbitrarily placed in a theater setting. Thereís nothing wrong with that, unless you go in actually expecting a plot that never really appears.

The game is fairly straightforward in its simplest variant. Youíve start with a bunch of cards on your screen, and your goal is to connect cards of certain values together in a long string so you can clear them off the screen. Itís that simple. Start on any card and connect it to any adjacent card thatís one value higher or lower than your selected card. You can move from a three to a four or a two (up or down one value point), you can then move from the second card to yet another card one or two points away from that card, and so on. The value of any card is limited depending on what level you are playing, so youíll start out with just ace-three or ace-four. A standard pattern might be something like ace-two-ace-two-three-four-ace-four- (you can go down from an ace to the highest value card on a given level)- two. End the process and the cards you selected are removed from the screen and added to your goal tally.

Each level has a defined goal. It can be as basic as clearing out 30 cards (the fewer turns it takes you to accomplish this, the higher your score, or play in timed mode and go against the clock), or clearing out enough cards that you create a path for cards at the top of the screen to wind their way down to the bottom. To keep the gameplay from getting overly repetitive, some levels have cards that change value every round, or cards that freeze the cards around them, adding another obstacle between you and your goal, or cards that are hidden underneath other cards that have to be cleared out to get to the bottom of the stack.

As you reach higher levels, the rounds will have higher card values added to the selection on the screen. In other words, itís much easier to move between ace-two-three than it is to also have to navigate a field of ace-two-three-four-five.

This gameplay is fairly unique, easy to learn, and easy enough to play that most adults wonít find too much of a challenge here. Personally, I thought the mechanics were decent for a quick casual game, but I wasnít blown away by any innovations. Even with the level variations, I frequently got bored having to do the same action round after round after round. The different cards just werenít that different enough to make a significant impact, though clearly without them the game would have been insufferable after just a few rounds.

Let me take a moment to at least mention that there are bonuses that can be won by meeting a variety of scoring goals, and the game is broken up into several realms Ė hence the name. Each realm is named after one of the four suits in a deck of cards, and then you work your way up to the Castle in the end.

Yes, I said Castle. Remember, this game setting is ostensibly based in a fairy tale land.


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