Ultimate Card Games
| Card Games
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Last year, Telegames brought us the excellent Game Boy Advance title Ultimate Brain Games. With its selection of classic tabletop games, it became a sleeper hit among the portable crowd who wanted something simple and deep to play on the go. Now, Telegames is looking to build on their success with the next entry in the Ultimate Games line: Ultimate Card Games. Once again, they've packed this title with so much value that it'll make your ordinary deck of cards green with envy.
The cards themselves are rather plain; in order to fit as many of them on the screen as possible, they've been reduced to small rectangles with one large symbol for suit and a smaller symbol for rank. To make up for this, Telegames has included a wide variety of beautiful digital photographs for the backgrounds. Like Ultimate Brain Games, this game features a face editor that you can use to create a digital avatar for yourself, but it's something of a disappointment; the faces get so scrunched up and blurry as you're playing that it hardly matters what facial features you've assigned yourself.
Once again, Telegames goes beyond the call of duty and delivers a great soundtrack. Fourteen soothing audio tracks play in the background, one after the other, to keep your ears from getting bored with the same song over and over. Audio quality is noticably better than in Ultimate Brain Games; none of the songs tax the Game Boy's speaker, and the songs themselves are generally well composed.
Ultimate Card Games delivers three distinct game modes -- Casino, Classic, and Solitaire -- and wraps them together with a very familiar and intuitive interface. Every game comes with a brief history and description, win/loss and other applicable statistics, a save slot, and complete online instructions for the uninitiated. Instructions tend to be a bit terse, but at the very worst, they give you enough to help you muddle your way through. There's even a "Game Copy" feature which allows you to send any game to a friend's GBA over the link cable; quite handy for siblings who have to share. My only real complaint with the interface is that the game will pause to generate a preview of a game before you select it. It's a cute feature, but it's not really necessary, and sometimes it keeps you from hammering through to the game itself.
Casino mode offers only Blackjack, Poker, and solo-only Video Poker. Blackjack and Video Poker are all right, but you're basically competing against a card-flinging robot. Regular Poker, however, is very well done. The game offers only a standard, no-frills five card draw. Options are available to set how much money each player starts with and how high the stakes can be raised. The AI opponents work well enough; they'll try to bluff you out and call you on your own bluffs, but they don't seem to pick up on your behavior.
Classic mode serves up nine four-player card games with a wide range of luck and skill:
- Go Fish
- Gin Rummy
- Crazy Eights
The AI can be downright ruthless in these games -- I never knew a game of Go Fish could be so intense -- and unfortunately, most games lack a skill level setting. A few of the games offer elaborate options for rules and scoring, but for the most part, you'll have to be content playing these games by the book. Also, there's no option to reduce the number of seats in games like Go Fish and Crazy Eights; you must have four players playing at once. Still, it's not hard to find a game to suit your tastes here.
Solitaire mode offers a whopping fifteen choices:
- Klondike (traditional Solitaire)
- Free Cell
- Baker's Dozen
- Aces Up
- Eagle Wing
- Eight Off
- Betsy Ross
There are games of pure luck, games of pure strategy, and all sorts of games in between to keep you busy for hours on end. Unfortunately, there are a few snags here and there. For one thing, there are no rules options, which means that you're stuck with a version of Klondike that offers only three redeals. Also, Microsoft has spoiled me with their version of Free Cell; after being so used to "auto-moving" long piles of cards around, it's kind of a pain to have to move them one at a time by hand up to the free spaces then back down to the columns.
Every multiplayer game can be played with a single cartridge and a network of up to four GBAs. No "hot seat" mode is supported, which is just as well; personally, I couldn't imagine passing a single Game Boy around for a game of Bridge or Poker. It really is a nice package for card sharks on the go in situations where having a real deck of cards would be too cumbersome or impractical.
It's amazing what you can do with an ordinary pack of playing cards. This is probably the best time-killing game to come along since Wario Ware Inc; even if you only use half the content on this cartridge, it's well worth the investment for the hours of entertainment it offers. It's the perfect pasttime for those times when you need a break from your other old favorites.
|Indeed, as my colleague above states, Ultimate Card Games will keep you entertained for hours on end with its plethora of modes, games, and features. With a focus purely on that of Game Boy Advance development, Telegames has truly mastered the art of crafting handheld compilations, particularly evidenced by their entire Ultimate line. |
With single-cart multiplayer and all the bells and whistles described above included in this package, I couldn't think of a better way to spend your money on Nintendo's handheld. One thing is for sure though -- I can't wait to see what Telegames cooks up with the forthcoming Ultimate Pocket Games and Ultimate Card Games sequel, the latter utilizing the updated technologies of Nintendo's DS. The care being put into these products is obvious, and much appreciated. Keep up the great work guys.
-- William Jacques