Big 2 Bonanza is a new Facebook game from LocaLoco. The game is presently available in open beta so a few features are missing, but it is fully playable. The developers are also actively soliciting feedback from players using an in-game survey option.
Big 2 Bonanza is a card game based on, as the title suggests, the popular game Big Two — also known as Deuces or Top Dog depending on where you’re from. The game’s rules are simple — whoever won the previous round (or holds the three of diamonds if it is the first round) begins by laying down a poker-style hand on the table, and the other players must then lay down hands with the same number of cards that “beat” the previous person. For example, if the first player laid down a pair of fives, the next player would have to lay a pair of sixes or better. Unusually, twos are the highest-ranking cards rather than aces. If a player is unable to play a hand, they must pass play on to the next player — by default, the game will automatically do this if there are no available hands. If all players pass, then the hands laid in the center of the table are removed and the cycle begins again with a new hand.
The game may be played either as a solo “practice” game against computer-controlled opponents, or live against other players on tables with variable stakes. The practice mode worked fine during testing, but finding an open multiplayer match proved somewhat difficult, even though the game indicated there were in excess of 5,000 players online. The game also does not appear to allow the flexibility to play with anything less than the full four players in a match. This problem will hopefully be mitigated as the game gains popularity and the population increases, but at present it is noticeably difficult to actually start a match.
The main difference between the solo and multiplayer games are the fact that the player may use a real-time chat facility to converse with others in multiplayer matches, and may also make use of hard currency to purchase “boost” items to give them an advantage. Initially, the only boost available to players is the ability to see where the two of spades (the highest ranking card in the game) is located, but additional boosts are set to be included over time. Multiplayer games also have higher stakes than solo games, and earn the player experience points towards gaining levels. Increasing in level provides the player with free chips (used as stakes to play the game) and Locos (the game’s hard currency). Alongside the level system, an achievements system is set to be included — though it has not yet been implemented.
One potential issue with the game is that it isn’t immediately accessible to new players, as it does not run through an initial tutorial automatically. There is a tutorial option on the game’s main menu, but it is not immediately apparent as it is off-screen by default and requires the player to scroll. There is also a Help Center function to allow players to read various articles regarding how the game works, but this is also not made especially obvious. It is good that the tutorial is optional so that veteran Big Two players can get straight into the action, but the game would perhaps benefit from a simple dialog box on first run asking if the player would like to view the tutorial and/or rules.
Despite this issue, Big 2 Bonanza is a simple but effective card game that works well in the social setting, and being a casino-style game it is likely to monetize well as players attempt to keep their balance in the black. The patchy multiplayer matchmaking is a concern, however, and this should be addressed as soon as possible. It took five attempts to get into a game during testing, though the game did work flawlessly once in. As mentioned above, this may be more a population issue rather than a problem with the game itself and thus may become less troublesome over time, but at present it is enough to mar the experience significantly. Perhaps the game could be a bit more flexible by allowing empty seats to be filled by computer-controlled characters after a set period of time has expired.
Multiplayer issues aside, Big 2 Bonanza is a fun game to play when it works — and it’s nice to see makers of card games being a bit more adventurous than simply putting out yet another Texas Hold ‘Em variant. LocaLoco also appears committed to making cross-platform titles, so expect to see Big 2 Bonanza on phones and tablets soon — this will surely help with the current population issues. For now, it’s worth a look — just be ready to wait in virtual line for a while.
Once the painfully slow multiplayer matchmaking issues are resolved, this will be an fun social card game suitable for all ages.