Monday, February 14, 2005

AcidSpider Review

Before Christmas I became hooked on Bejewelled2, which has the annoying feature of telling you how many days and hours you have been playing. Soon my wife and daughter were borrowing my Palm to play as well. When my Treo arrives, they will probably get the T|E as a games machine.

Bejewelled will not run on the Treo600, since it needs a hi-res screen, so I am in the market for a new time-wasting activity. Enter AcidSpider from Red Mercury, an implementation of the Spider patience ('solitaire' in American English) game. Spider is played with 104 cards and has fairly simple rules. The level of difficulty in AcidSpider is determined by how many suits are found in the 104 card pack. Easy = 1 suit, moderate = 2 suits, and difficult = 4 suits. Obviously, the game was invented to be played with two full packs of cards and thus 4 suits.

In the bottom right corner there is a battery icon: very useful on long sessions and if tapped it will show the time and the date, though I cannot imagine playing for so long that I would need to check what date it is. The background here is a photo of mine, scaled down from 1600x1200 to fit the small screen and not looking too good for it. In the image below the background is a 320x320 version of the Mac Aqua background which I scaled down in iPhoto - it looks much better.

Now, there are scores of patience programs out there, and most of them have more than one game to choose from, so what makes AcidSpider worth the money ($14.95 plus VAT, since you asked)?

1. There is a very good 7 step tutorial, with demonstrations, to teach you the basics of the game play. (There are also some rather less helpful 'Tips'.)

2. It is possible to play one-handed using the 5-way Navigator. (Downside: it is to easy to get a hint: just press 'down' – no good for the weak-willed player.)

3. Every game is winnable. Also every game (that is, every deal of the cards) is given a unique identifying code, so it is possible to replay a game as many times as you like and even to challenge someone else to play the same game as you.

4. It is possible to use any jpeg as a background (AcidSpider will automatically resize it – what else do you expect from the makers of AcidImage?) and one setting is 'Change background on winning', giving a little extra reward.

And that is about it. A really good implementation of a great game. But worth $14.95? That is difficult to judge. In one week of ownership my wife and I have played 32 games between us. So if we didn't play again that would be 50 cents a game, the quickest of which lasted 10 minutes and the norm was more than 20 minutes, which is good value compared to just about any other form of entertainment. Except, of course, playing patience with a pack of cards. But you can't do that on the bus or in bed (with the lights out).