Updated: Fairway Solitaire HD iPad Review

It’s spring, and Big Fish Games wants you to get out on the golf course again. Fairway Solitaire HD has received a 1.1 update, and there’s enough new stuff to make a good-sized game all by itself.

The heart of the update is two new course packs with a total of 18 courses. The game’s signature gopher “McDivot” is back in the Gopher Broke Pack, and there’s a new “Spring Bonus Pack” that can be unlocked with Golf Bucks. The new courses don’t introduce any new gameplay, but they’re challenging and themed for the season.

Other additions include new store items and five new trophies. Most of the awards can be earned on any course, and some– like the “Great Scot!” trophy– encourage you to go back to and replay previous courses. The most useful new item is the Midas Touch, which will fill your bag with utility golf clubs for $0.99. It’s an expensive but powerful edge.

There are some cute extras, such as spring-themed card backs. (The Easter egg card theme suggests that this update went live a little later than expected.) But overall, this update doesn’t change much. It just gives you more of a great game.

Feeling like you’ve done it all in Fairway Solitaire? Big Fish Games has fixed that problem. The version 1.2.1 update released on August 7 doesn’t just add new levels, it adds a new way to get new levels.

Fairway Solitaire has introduced a Daily Challenge, which takes the form of three short golf courses each day and an unusual objective for each course. There are also extras like a new trophies and a fan-designed card back.

Daily Challenge courses are unlocked with the in-game currency of Golf Bucks, and they’re cheapest on the day they’re released. (In fact, each day one of the three courses is free.) Any course you don’t buy on the day of release costs 500 more Golf Bucks the next day, then another 500 each day after that. If you don’t buy and complete the course in a week, it disappears, presumably to reappear at some future date.

The new courses are entertaining, though some of the holes bear a strong resemblance to holes seen in previous courses. Each course also has a challenge assigned to it, which can range from getting an exceptionally good score to putting together unusual runs of cards. If you complete a challenge, you get a little trophy, and accumulated trophies unlock a bonus pack with even more new courses to play.

Fairway Solitaire was already a great game, and nothing’s changed about that. But with a few new puzzles available every day, Fairway Solitaire now has everything it needs to keep its fans busy for months to come.

Mark Twain called golf ‘a good walk spoiled,’ but he did like card games. We think he would have liked Fairway Solitaire HD, which gives you the atmosphere of a professional golf tournament in a card game.

The game starts you off at the ‘Golf Academy,’ a clear and well-organized tutorial. You begin a hole of golf, but instead of using swing meters and shot type controls, you receive a solitaire hand. You play through the hole by capturing runs of cards and clearing the layout.

Each card in the run must be one number higher or lower than the previous card. A 5 can capture a 6 or a 4. A Jack can capture a 10 or a Queen. Aces can capture 2s or Kings. You can only capture a card if no other cards are on top of it. Long runs that capture many cards get rewarded with Golf Bucks, the in-game currency.

The loneliest game.

Some cards represent sand traps, water hazards, or rough grass. These are locked until you capture a special card hidden in the layout or a special combination of regular cards. The tutorial does an excellent job of teaching you how to deal with these situations, and they contribute a lot to the feeling of playing golf.

The golf hole ends when your draw pile is empty or you capture all the cards. Each hole has a ‘par rating,’ which is how many cards are likely to be left over at the end. You don’t have to make par on an individual hole, but the holes are organized into golf courses, and you have to score below the total par for each course to unlock the next course. There are 3-hole, 6-hole, and 9-hole courses, offering a variety of difficulties and play times.

The layouts get more complicated as you progress, and you’ll soon find you need golf clubs. In keeping with the theme, the clubs are your irons, and they run from 2 up to 9. Each club can be used as a card to capture other cards. You’ll find them hidden in your solitaire hands, and you can also buy them for a small amount of in-game currency.

Follow the gopher.

The layouts are busy, and you will miss plays. Fairway Solitaire is a forgiving game, though, and it lets you take one ‘mulligan’ per hole to fix a mistake, avoiding a lot of potential frustration. That friendly attitude carries through the entire game, creating a great casual play experience. The game is colorful and easy to learn. There’s no time pressure or ticking clock. Trophies, rewards, and mini-games pop up naturally as you play, and the game celebrates when you play long runs of cards or get a perfect score.

Fairway Solitaire also lets you customize your game with different playing card designs and a Golf Shop full of in-game purchases. Most of the 24 items in the shop are bought with Golf Bucks, which the game is generous about giving out. However, you can buy special items like Gopher Repellent with cash as an in-app purchase.

One in-app purchase you should make is the full game upgrade. The initial download is free with nine beginner courses, but an in-app purchase of $2.99 unlocks 54 more courses with hundreds of holes to play. If you’re enjoying the game, you’ll want those.

Fairway Solitaire HD is a superb game, offering hours of play, colorful graphics, entertaining voice-overs and a demented gopher. Unless you hate golf even more than Mark Twain did, you’ll have a lot of fun with this game.

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One thought on “Fairway Solitaire HD iPad Review

  1. Love Fairway but the HD is far too expensive – there should be a discount for anyone who has purchased the I phone/I pod version. £1.99 is ‘music money’, not game and I will not be buying it (though I wish to heaven I could!)

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