Reviewed: April 27, 2002
When I was asked to review Hardwood Hearts by the independent game developer Silver Creek Entertainment I could not help but wait to see the differences between it and Hardwood Spades; another Silver Creek card game I had recently reviewed. Hardwood Hearts was exactly what I expected it to be; a game that has good functionality and above average graphics. What I did not expect to see was how similar this game actually was to Hardwood Spades.
Then I had to look back upon my time playing Hoyle and Bicycle electronic card games and realized that those games also mirrored one another with the exception that the actual card games and rules varied. Thus, good card games can be in the same package as long as they provide the player with enough change and challenge to keep them playing, which Hardwood Hearts does once again. Check out these features:
Hardwood Hearts has an in-depth tutorial that one can view if they are not familiar with the rules associated with the game of Hearts. This tutorial was also valuable for me as it helped remind me of the scoring system that one has to follow to gain points and thus win the game. It was also helpful as it further showed me what a "foom" actually was. Character setup was easy to figure out and there are over 30 different characters available to choose from.
The display is very easy to understand, and you will know when it is your turn to play the cards in your hand. Game play only requires a standard mouse, which was rather refreshing not to have to juggle a combo of keyboard, mice, or game pad commands. The average game time ranged from 20 to 30 minutes, however this was based on a 100-point game, so if you choose a higher point game expect a much longer gaming session.
Realistic yet somewhat cartoon-like looks were prevalent in this game. There was a good assortment of over thirty characters that ranged from a cat, dog, human, elf, dragons, knights and princesses, as well as some that can only be called ugly. It is the vast amount of characters that makes this game a bit above average.
An easy to use menu interface was also evident. Very little, if any instruction was needed to play Hearts due to the way Silver Creek Entertainment animated this game. Game play was easy to follow, as you always knew it was your turn by the highlighting of the cards in your hand. The bidding menu on each deal was also easy to understand and allowed you to just click on the three cards you wanted to pass to your opponents. I unfortunately seemed to receive the dreaded queen of spades a few more times than I had liked to.
An impressive medieval midi soundtrack is included with Hardwood Hearts. Each midi track was rich in tones and enjoyable to listen to. An easy to control midi interface was evident in the gaming area. It allowed me to change songs or stop them. One drawback to this game was that were a limited amount of songs available that will repeat if you play this game for an extended amount of time, and they were also many of the same songs found in the other game I had reviewed; Hardwood Spades.
As mentioned earlier, the average length of a game while playing a lower point game ranged from 20 to 30 minutes. There are many factors that will modify your game length that the user is able to easily configure. An avid card player can spend many hours playing this game and game play is extended greatly if you have an Internet connection and want to play online against other Hardwood Hearts players.
Although Hardwood Hearts can be played individually, it was much more enjoyable when played over the internet. In order to play the multiplayer version the program checks and upgrades the program if necessary (as was in my case with a 1.8MB download). An account also has to be created, and it was as with the game, an easy process. An interesting side note is that since I had an account from playing Hardwood Spades I was able to use that login and password to play Hardwood Hearts online also.
Once you are in a game with others the "fooms" start to fly. A "foom" is much like an emoticon; such "foom" is flung upon either yourself or your opponents. When I started my first online game someone sent me a fire "foom" for what I can only think of as meaning "don’t mess with me". The multiplayer games I played usually lasted about 30 minutes and the online version worked quite well with my dial-up connection.
Multiplayer also has a chat option that was utilized a great deal as I played; however, one drawback was that the messages were shown in balloons by the character’s face who “spoke” and these messages sometimes disappeared too quickly, and I was unable to read the discussion.
Hardwood Hearts by Silver Creek Entertainment was a pleasant game to review and play. Single player gaming is a good way to get associated with this game; however, in order to fully utilize the games functions it must be played in its multiplayer/online version. The wide variety of characters to choose from was also nice. I was a bit disappointed in the lack of song selections and how the graphic quality of the characters wasn't more realistic or 3D in quality.
A free demo of Hearts is available on the Silver Creek Entertainment’s website, as well as their many other card games. Be sure to check out the demo first to see if you will like the game. It was refreshing to see that this company offers demos of its games since many companies no longer seem to offer such extensive demos anymore.
Overall Hardwood Hearts is an above average card game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It follows in a wide line of electronic card games that is certain to entertain people of all ages for many years to come.