Reporting Jason Iannone
As you probably gathered from all our penis jokes, beer references, hot girl galleries, and tributes to men who can beat the living daylights out of six people while eating a 48-ounce raw steak, we at Man Cave Daily love our cheesy romance novels. The dashing rogues, the fair maidens, the heaving bosoms, the flowing hair, the pretentious pseudo-poetry, the fact that just about anybody can write one if they’re drunk enough; what isn’t there to love about them?
So imagine our shock and awe when we learned that there’s a cheesy romance video game out there. If that’s not enough, the gameplay itself is comprised of our second favorite thing to do here: play solitaire! Now true, Windows 7, 8 and 9 (it exists. You probably don’t have the clearance level to use it yet) have hidden the classic time-waster from immediate view, but trust us, it’s still there. Just don’t tell the boss.
And if the boss happens to be reading this … look behind you! It’s a thing!
OK, that’s taken care of (and the closest you’ll get to a final boss battle in this thing). So, the game. It’s called Heartwild Solitaire, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Play solitaire, advance the story. Play more solitaire, advance more story. It’s never been done before, unless you count some bored lady playing cards on the computer while leafing through 50 Shades Of Grey every few minutes.
In this day and age, any attempt at innovation has to be looked into, at the very least. So much of what we create is hopelessly derivative of what somebody else created, which was probably derivative of something else in the first place. How many gritty first-person military shooters are there again? How many “Top 10 Greatest Rock Stars” lists plague the Internet? Even our beloved cheesy romance novels sometimes step in each other’s toes. If you can imagine such a thing.
Of course, innovation doesn’t automatically equal good. Does romantic solitaire fit into that category, or is this idea the shot in the arm that a tired gaming industry so desperately needs?
As it turns out, this is one of those nifty new ideas that could have worked, if literally everything were done differently, and done better. That’s not exactly constructive criticism, but playing through this thing wasn’t exactly a constructive use of our time.
For starters, there are two versions: a clean one for the kids, and a “spicy” one for the adults. Take care to download the right one. Don’t be like us and accidentally download the family-friendly version, an experience worse than logging into iTunes and purchasing the censored version of a Tupac album. We say worse, because ‘Pac wouldn’t force you to pay endless hands of cards before moving on to the next song.
Yes, this is how Heartwild Solitaire works. But it’s not just “play a hand, get some story, lather rinse repeat.” No, that would be tolerable. Instead, you have to play SEVEN complete games before getting a chapter of story. We say chapter, by the way, in the loosest possible sense. They’re maybe 200 words long, each. The Da Vinci Code had longer chapters, sometimes. And Da Vinci had a LOT of them, so it still came out to a whole book in the end. Heartwild? Twelve. Just twelve. Each one a couple hundred words long, if that.
Now remember, you still have to play seven games before unlocking a chapter. That’s 84 freakin’ games of Solitaire, for a grand total of maybe 2500 words. There are articles on this site longer than that, and you don’t have to play cards while reading them if you really don’t want to.
But wait, it gets worse! Klondike, the version of solitaire we all waste time with at work, is but one of hundreds of ways you can play cards by yourself. It would’ve been the gentlemanly thing for Heartwild to include a couple dozen of these games, simply for variety’s sake.
Yeah, we didn’t get that. All 84 hands are the EXACT SAME THING. You play the same game, with the same rules, over and over again. Imagine playing Final Fantasy and having to spend 5 hours battling nothing but slimes, over and over again, until a tiny snippet of the story airs. Then you spend another five hours battling MORE slimes until yet another snippet appears. And you do this for ages and ages. That’s Heartwild Solitaire.
So what kind of solitaire is this? Well, we’re not sure. It’s unlike any variation we’ve ever seen; they might well have made it up for the game. It looks like a fancy, romantic version of 52 Pickup, with a few cards face up to kick things off. You make matches until the board is cleared. Again, you do this 84 times. We feel this point must be stressed again, and will likely do so again down the line.
Don’t worry about losing though, because you get tons of reshuffles and retries and undos and deck flips along the way, all designed to help you win. Even if you lose all your chances, you get to start again right where you left off, power-ups completely replenished. But you lose all your points, so if you’re one of the five people left on the planet who still cares about a high score, then you’d be inconsolable at this point.
The music doesn’t help the game’s cause either. This thing effectively has the same stage, 84 times over. How many songs do you have to get through all this? Three! Naturally, all of them are New Age-style meditation music, but you’d think they could’ve sprung for at least a few more. As it stands, this game provides the absolute worst deja-vu in history. “Wait, didn’t I just flip two aces while this gentle harpsichord riff softly wanes in the background? I did, didn’t I? Why am I doing this? Why am I doing it sober?”
But you know what? If the story’s good, maybe this repetitive, condescending, hands-holding game can be forgiven. That’s the hook of the whole thing, after all. You play some cards, and then you get a saucy, spicy story of intrigue, romance, mystery, and the journey of self-discovery.
Or you get something the author scribbled onto some toilet paper before wiping with said toilet paper and still deciding it’s good enough for print. That works too.
Yeah, the story is … no good. In a nutshell (we’re assuming nobody cares about spoilers in this case):
–Woman leaves abusive husband. He yells about her “insane sister” but she never comes into the story. Literally, she’s never mentioned again.
–Woman runs off, tries to be a strong independent woman who don’t need no man, and immediately falls in love with one. Like, in Chapter 3. That’s fast, even by romance standards.
–Man calls woman a fish and makes her cry. She loves him anyway even though she thinks he’s kinda homely. Ugly man sleeps with fish face; hopefully, they adopt.
–Woman runs away, then feels betrayed by ugly man as he starts screwing around with another woman, even though man and woman were not dating yet. He was supposed to diligently wait, like a dog eagerly anticipating your return from the mailbox.
–The other woman quickly fades away, much pretentious dialogue is exchanged, and the main character finally gets her man, after literally minutes of riveting action.
–The abusive husband, by the way, NEVER comes back into the story. Ever. Maybe he hooked up with the insane sister and they ran off to another continent.
This is the same story told in both versions, though the R-rated one has more sex. Theoretically. Yes, it’s there, but it takes a while to arrive, and then it barely delivers. It’s about as saucy as watered-down ketchup.
Now, we’ve played plenty of games with dumb, poorly-written storylines, so you’d think we’d be used to this kind of thing. But when the game makes you jump through the same hoop over and over again, only to blurt out lines like, “Flushed with the life of love … well, lovemaking … well, animal sex,” we’re forced to dub thee unforgiven. Although, if you’re into goats and horsies, that line must be positively titillating.
We were hoping that maybe there would be more chapters in the ‘spicy” version, and that you wouldn’t have to play seven hands of repetitive solitaire just to get to them. Well, we got our wish, but in the same disappointing manner that Satan grants wishes. There were still only twelve chapters, but we didn’t have to play seven hands any more. Nope, now we had to play EIGHT.
But hey, those 96 hands have titles, so there’s that. They’re exclusive to the hot-n-heavy version, and are supposed to help advance the story. Of course, they only do so if the story is “Player uninstalls game, player burns every deck of cards she sees for the next two months.” Can you imagine a 108-chapter story where only 12 of the chapters have actual (crappy) text? The remaining 96 merely have titles, such as:
“Do skies cry in joy or sadness?”
“Moon dances and happy faces.”
“Sex is the confusion.”
“Reveries of unruly desires.”
“Male nude unparalleled.”
Theoretically, these titles advance the plot, but in actuality they do nothing. Sex is confusing? Men are naked? OK, what else? Imagine if the Metal Gear Solid story was told exclusively through bad single-line poetry. “Smoke-free snakes are happy snakes.” Yeah, you kind of assume Snake quits smoking based on that, but are you satisfied? No.
We have no clue who this game is supposed to be marketed to. The E-rated version is beyond useless. It’s not dirty, so adults won’t care, and kids will just be bored with it. And the flowery, pretentious, ninth-grade poetry writing style is somehow worse than the worst 50 Shades ripoff imaginable.
The R-rated version is ever-so-slightly better, because people make whoopee. But we’re fairly certain, if you scour the nooks and crannies of the Internet, you can probably find a picture or two of people doing sex things, with no card games necessary. We’re assuming.
Naturally, this experiment being a giant clump of kitty litter did not deter anybody from making more just like it. There’s a sequel, because of course there is. You’re on your own with that one though. Also, something called Faerie Solitaire exists. A role-playing fantasy game told through solitaire? You’re DEFINITELY on your own with that one.
Jason offers tips for making your dark mansion inviting to buxom fair maidens everywhere with How To Spruce Up Your Evil Castle, and tackles another misguided attempt at video gaming innovation in The Tomb Raider Remote Control DVD Adventure.