Solitaire Arena review

Solitaire Arena is a Facebook game from Mavenhut Ltd. It’s been available since October of last year but has been showing strong growth recently, and is presently showing up in the “Trending” section of Facebook’s App Center. The developer also claims it is available for iPad but provides no link, and a cursory search of the App Store doesn’t seem to reveal the existence of a mobile version.

Unlike many other recent Facebook-based solitaire games, which follow the simplistic formula seen in titles such as Fairway Solitaire, Faerie Solitaire and Solitaire Blitz, Solitaire Arena is based on the traditional and well-known Klondike Solitaire game that Windows users have been playing for many years now. The unusual social twist on the formula is that it is played in competition against another player, whereas traditional Klondike is played solo — hence the “solitaire” part of the name.

Klondike Solitaire is a card game where players must gradually build up their four “foundation” piles according to suit and in sequential order, beginning with aces. Cards may be sent to the foundations as soon as they are revealed if there is a place for them — and in fact by default, Solitaire Arena handles this part automatically, though this behavior may be switched off if desired. In order to reveal other cards, players must build up stacks of face-up cards in the main play area (known as the “tableau”) by making descending sequences that alternate in color — for example black king followed by red queen followed by black jack. Empty spaces in the tableau may only be filled with a king, and if moving a card to another stack reveals a face-down card, it is turned face-up and can be used immediately. If there are no available moves, the player draws a card from a draw deck in the corner of the screen and may use this if possible. When the draw deck is exhausted, it is reshuffled and may be drawn from again. The player scores one point for each card they send to the foundations, with an additional bonus point per card if their opponent has not yet sent that card to their foundations. The on-screen play area is mostly taken up by the player’s tableau and foundations, but the opponent’s foundations and score may be seen in the corner of the screen so the player may keep an eye on their relative performance.

The game is played live against human opponents rather than in an asynchronous manner, and whoever scores the most points wins — this is usually whoever builds up all their foundations fully first. There seemed to be a healthy population of players online at the time of writing, and there was no trouble finding a game and getting into it. There was no apparent means of communication during the game — the focus was very much on play rather than chatting, even after the match had concluded. Besides playing live against other players, the only other real social feature is the fact that a match’s results may be shared on one’s Timeline following its conclusion.

The game monetizes through sales of various powerups. These include magic wands that reveal face-down cards and allow them to be used — cheating, effectively — along with “undo” and “hint” functions. Players may also purchase new card backs for $1 each, including seasonal designs, and $25 packs of “goodies” allow for unlimited use of the hint, undo and automatic send-to-foundation facility.

Solitaire Arena is a decent game but seems a little unpolished in places. There’s a distinct lack of any sounds besides basic card-shuffling noises, for example — while this isn’t really a problem per sesome players enjoy having some background music while they play. Similarly, the game canvas is a lot taller than it needs to be — the actual play area is relatively small with a large empty green baize space at the bottom of the screen. Again, this doesn’t present a problem to the actual gameplay, but it makes the game look a little messy.