Solitaire is an age old classic, and there are hundreds of variations on the base formula. There are also hundreds of variations floating around the App Store with most relying on the tried and true formula of digital representations of card stacks, green felt, and authentic looking playing cards. 4 Thrones is a brand new solitaire game that throws away the established model in favor of a redesign of the basics of solitaire. The interface and gameplay have been simplified to actually make solitaire feel fresh, and dare I say, enjoyable. Every part of the app is designed around being made for modern mobile touch devices.
The game is set-up with four stacks to place cards on from the deck, and your base goal is to keep placing cards on those stacks. To do so, there are a few new rules to contend with as you need to keep placing higher cards. Distinctions come from the face cards as you can place any card on top of a jack, queens needs either hearts or diamonds, while kings require just spades. The Ace is the highest and lowest card in the game, which means the best strategy is to have the lowest cards on the four stacks as possible. You only have three skips per game as you try to clear all 52 cards, and the simple mechanic becomes surprisingly challenging as you try to decide where to place each new card from the deck. The familiar expansive layouts of Klondike, Tri-Peaks, Free Cell, and Golf Solitaire are replaced with just four stacks to place on.
In addition to the base mode of clearing all 52 cards, there’s also an endless option to last as long as you can. A third mode is included, with kings mode, which amps up your score by maintaining a king on one of the four stacks to offer further restrictions. No matter the mode, the game maintains just six touch points on screen with the four stacks, play card, and deck. That minimalism is perfectly suited for iOS, and even with the clutter reduced, the gameplay offers intricate challenge that keeps calling you back. It’s so engaging, and the three different modes provide variability as you keep trying to improve your latest attempt. 4 Thrones can be effortlessly played with just one thumb, and the new rules included become second nature after just one play through.
The minimalism is also applied to the art design, whcih takes cues from iOS 7. The screen is simply filled with the six touch points, and clean highly stylized backgrounds. There are ten unlockable themes, and they all maintain the beautiful looks including very focused card layouts. Every single part of the game is just oozing reserved polish to the point that everything is about simplicity rather than overbearing gloss and cluttered interface elements. All of the design work is outstanding, but it still gets out of the way to let you focus on the intriguing subtle twist on solitaire.
4 Thrones ($0.99, Universal) epitomizes what mobile gaming should be when transforming an age old classic to on the go touch gaming making it a must buy.