Back in college, at one point everyone on my dorm hall was addicted to a solitaire game called Tri-Peaks. The cards are laid out to form three pyramids with only the bottom row face up. You turn over a card from the draw pile and can play the card above or below it from the board, earning more points for longer runs. Like most solitaire games, it's the perfect balance of mindless clicking with just a hint of strategy to keep you paying attention.
I have a Tri-Peaks app on my iPad, and it's fine (and free). But just the other day I ran across a game that takes the Tri-Peaks concept to a whole new level: Fairway Solitaire by Big Fish Games. First off, almost every level uses a new and unique card layout, and some are much harder to clear than others. I found the level full of "52 Card Pickup" boards especially challenging:
Second, they add in a few trick cards to slow you down - in keeping with the golf theme, things like water hazards, sand traps, and roughs. This board has blue water hazard cards, all of which must be cleared to unlock the rest of the cards:
But to make up for these difficulties, you get those clubs down in the bottom right corner - playing a 4-iron puts a 4 down for you to play on, etc. You find these randomly, or can buy them (and other helpful add-ons) with golf bucks.
Which brings me to something I really appreciate about this game. There is an excellent balance between the rate at which you earn golf bucks and how badly you need the helping items you can buy. Unlike many "freemium" games, it's never impossible to play without buying more golf bucks with real cash (although, of course, that is an option). If you want to use clubs constantly you'll need to, but if you're playing smart and using your clubs judiciously you'll find that you can usually afford them when you really need one.
The free version of the game comes with eight full courses of 3-9 boards each, and due to the inherent nature of solitaire games the replayability is very high. But this game was so addicting, not to mention well-designed, that I had no problem paying the $3 to access all 50+ courses (plus extras). And I rarely pay for games!
The one complaint I have is the low value of long runs. Runs of 5 or fewer cards have no value aside from the cards they clear, and runs of 6 or more are worth only a paltry number of golf bucks. You only get a major reward - 1000 gb - if your runs (only those of 6 or more each) add up to at least 20 on one board. In traditional Tri-peaks, even runs of 3 or 4 can be worth significantly more points than individual cards cleared, and a long run of, say, 15 is worth quite a lot. I'd like to at least see runs of 10-20 cards rewarded more heavily here.
Overall, though - well done, Big Fish!