Reviewed: April 27, 2002
Card games have been around for hundreds of years. It was only natural that this form of entertainment would become digitalized and put onto a personal computer. Like all computer games, card games have also gone through an evolution process. I remember the first card game I ever played as being text base then from there, GUI versions from companies such as Bicycle and Hoyle became popular in the 1990’s. As years go by, electronic card games continue to evolve, as seen in Hardwood Spades by Silver Creek Entertainment.
When I was asked to review Hardwood Spades by the independent game developer Silver Creek Entertainment I could not help but wonder what type of game package they had developed and how it compared to Hardwood Hearts. Hardwood Spades was exactly what I expected it to be; a game that has good functionality and above average graphics. Check out these features:
Hardwood Spades has an in-depth tutorial that one can view if they are not familiar with the rules associated with the game of Spades. 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. 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 also and when it is your turn the cards are highlighted to show your selection. 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 length of time ranged from 10 to 30 minutes, however this was based on a lower 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 were 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 number of hands you thought you could win.
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. Silver Creek seems to use many of the same songs across all their card games, so expect to hear lots of repeats if you play more than one title.
As mentioned earlier, the average length of a game for me while playing a lower point game ranged from 10 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 Spades players.
Although Hardwood Spades 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. Once you create an online account it can be used to play any of the Silver Creek card games online.
Once you are in an online 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 Spades 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 Spades 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.