I may be dating myself here, but there was a time when I was completely obsessed with Windows Solitaire. I wanted to see every pixel of the game's window covered in the cards that hopped down at the end of the game, and the obsession lasted just as long as it took to make that happen. Since then, stacking cards onto other cards hasn't held the same charm. Then I picked up Fairway Solitaire [Free / HD] and now I'd kind of like my life back, please.

It's not that Fairway Solitaire is particularly challenging—quite the opposite, in fact. It follows Big Fish Games' usual mandate of making everything as player-friendly as possible. But between the dead simple gameplay and the weirdly compelling golf metaphors, I'm totally engrossed. And reading around online and in our forums, I'm not alone. This game gets its hooks into people more than one might expect from a golf-themed card game.

The game is built around one-card draw solitaire. The field is covered in cards that are stacked in various piles, face up or face down, and one card is drawn from the remaining deck at a time. You can put any card on top of that draw if it's higher or lower by one. You keep stacking them until you have no cards left within one point on either side, and then you draw your next card.

Golf provides the framework in with the game is played. Each game is a single hole of a golf course. The score for an individual hole doesn't matter all that much because your real goal is to hit below par for the whole course. The beauty of this system is that when you get to those awful awkward moments when the last few cards on the table just won't work, you can end your game and move on to the next hole.

In fact, a cleared table will land you well under par. Not only does this make successful games particularly rewarding, it also keeps you from getting bogged down in losses. Just pick up your clubs, dust yourself off and move on to the next hole. You'll even it out in the end.

Speaking of clubs, they play a vital role in Fairway Solitaire. You can find them as you play or buy them with Golf Bucks, and they can be used as cards for cheating. Whenever you're in a tight spot with few cards left in your deck, you can pull out a relevant club and build off that instead. Again, this design cuts down on frustration and adds a teensy bit of strategy thanks to the relative scarcity of Golf Bucks and the long cooldown on each club.

Not that they're all that scarce. You earn Golf Bucks for everything you do. They come from achievements, from finishing holes, from really good shots. They also come from in-app purchases, if you're so inclined. You can use them to buy clubs or gear that gives you other advantages, like letting you see how many cards are left in the deck or clearing away a few hazards at the start of each hole.

Fairway Solitaire starts with one course pack, which contains six courses and about twenty-four holes total. If you choose to pay a dollar to unlock the rest of the courses, there are ten course packs that open up as you progress and one that can be unlocked with Golf Bucks. The differences between holes lie in the card layouts, the hazards present (which generally must be cleared by finding a hidden card or sacrificing a card from your deck), and the number of cards you need to get through to make par. Since most of the holes have their card selections randomly assigned, you can pretty much play forever.

Quirks abound, like realistically banal golf banter (which can be turned off) and overarching story about an angry gopher. The latter only comes up when you draw a wild card, which will throw you into a random gopher-related situation. Some give you clubs or take away your cards, and some are silly little minigames that award you with Golf Bucks.

Some of the other quirks of the game are less pleasant.The HD version doesn't include Game Center, while the standard version is about double the file size. Multitasking drops off unusually quickly and without it you'll be sent back to the start of the hole. And prepared to be inundated with ads for other Big Fish Games titles whenever you load Fairway Solitaire up fresh.

Those annoyances aside, this is the new solitaire title to beat in my books. What it lacks in difficulty it makes up for in sheer mindless entertainment, which is arguably what solitaire does best. If you want to push for a bigger challenge you can always go for three stars on each course, but success ultimately comes down to luck of the draw. Instead, I'd recommend enjoying Fairway Solitaire as the never-ending meditative experience that it is. Let other games be challenging. For this one, compelling and fun might just be good enough.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://twitter.com/crunchewy Crunchewy

    This is a super addicting game and I highly recommend trying it, especially since you can play 9 courses for free, or some such number. That's a pretty lengthy trial. I do hope they will add Game Center to the iPad version. That was a curious omission.

  • http://www.facebook.com/piguet Lionel Piguet

    Very good game, I bought it a few days ago and cannot stop playing, its very addictive and really smooth game play, love it! Good job

  • MidianGTX

    I can see the gophers in the screenshots, but my first thought upon seeing the icon was "Herro Raggy!"

  • Telltales

    The multitasking problem is this game's biggest flaw by far. Not only does it not let you continue a hole if you're having a good one and want to continue the same hole set some other time, but if you're not doing so well you can always get out of the game and redo the hole without any kind of loss to the player. So if you're looking for the fun and challenge of getting all 3 stars for every single course, you won't find it in this game as you can cheat your way through by resetting a hole with this method. It was almost a perfect game if it were not for this loop hole.

    • Tyler Cooper

      You can reset the course...but not the hole.  Unless I'm mistaken for the iPhone version (I only own the HD version).

      • Telltales

        No, you can reset the hole on either version. Next time you've made a lot of mistakes and are not doing so well past the first hole, click that bottom left icon, go to the main menu which takes you back to the selection of courses to play, click on the course and select continue game. You will get an entirely new hole, new cards and all and you get to keep any free clubs you find from the hole you were playing. Congrats you now have cheated your way out of a hole. Yeah, buying the clubs don't carry the same fun weight it use to anymore.

  • http://twitter.com/thebenchwarmers BenchWarmers Clique

    thanks for the impressions, sounds like one I'll try!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Andrew/1765620101 Scott Andrew

    This game is super addicting. The commentary quite funny. This is a great spin on solitaire. There are a few flows hopefully Big Fish will fix 'em.

  • http://twitter.com/JCman7 James Donnellon

    I am a big fan of BFG and the original Fairway Solitaire for PC is what started my obsession with their games. This new version now for iOS is fantastic and brings back all those fantastic memories of the original. I have been playing this nonstop for days! It is truly a great must have game

  • karma32

    Too bad about being able to cheat by not being able to play where you left off in your last hole. It does take the fun out for those looking for a challenge

    • http://twitter.com/JCman7 James Donnellon

      theres a simple solution dont cheat! lol I dont understand that concept you can still have fun just play fair.

  • http://www.intelinetsystems.com/file_backup.aspx online storage service

    My child has a found of games. I will inform him about it.

  • Christian Heidarson

    I would like my life back. This game is silly addictive...

  • http://twitter.com/winningfool Cory Engel

    At least -1 star for making a game that is 466 MB. There's no big video sequence (though even that would be a lousy excuse). There's no fancy 3-D environment. IT'S HALF A GIG FOR A SOLITAIRE GAME. That is just plain stupid. I like the game, but my phone is maxed. I'll wait until I get at least a 64 GB device before installing this.

    • Bob Mayer

      There's a lo

    • Bob Mayer

      There's a lo

  • Mia_TM

    In Sweden it will cost you $ 3.26 to unlock the rest of the courses. Why the difference Big Fish?

    "If you choose to pay a dollar to unlock the rest of the courses, there are ten course packs that open up as you progress and one that can be unlocked with Golf Bucks."

  • Redjen12

    I am having an intermittent problem on the Moo N. River in the super variety pack. On hole 5 of 6 I am not able to choose my card, like it is frozen. It occurs in the two upper squares of cards. Any one else have a problem like this or a fix. Thank you.

Fairway Solitaire by Big Fish Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4