Overall Score 94%
I have a new favourite solitaire game. It's called Tickle Dice. Being a bit of a golf aficionado, I'd often find myself going to Fairway Solitaire more often than not, but recently, I've been playing this game more than my old favourite. A good solitaire game on PC should combine the luck of the draw with a bit of skill and also present itself nicely with a few flavour elements to give the experience a bit of context. Fairway Solitaire did this really well, but I think that Tickle Dice has a few aces up its sleeve that give it the edge.
Allow me to explain the basics of how to play. The player draws a specified number of cards (which can vary from scenario to scenario) from a standard 52 card deck. They then arrange the drawn cards onto a 5 by 5 matrix as they see fit. You can shift cards around as you like during this phase; there's no limit imposed at all. The suit of the leftmost card in each row determines which suit will be scored on that row. Any card of the same suit placed in the same row as the scoring card also gets scored at its numerical value, with face cards scoring 10 and aces scoring 20. If the entire row is filled with 5 cards, then bonus points are awarded if a poker hand of one pair or better can be completed. Still with me? Because this is where the fun starts.
Your opponents are cartoon animals and other creatures. They have a score in all 4 suits that the player needs to beat by rolling dice. The number of dice that can be rolled in each suit depends on the score allocated by placing cards. But your opponents are sneaky wisecracking cheats. Their first roll (presumably taken before anyone was looking) only consists of 4's, 5's and 6's. If you want them to roll again legitimately before you challenge their score, you need to tickle them. Tickles are awarded by making poker hands in the columns of your matrix. Better tricks yield more tickles and re-rolls to use during the challenge stage. If you can beat an opponent during the challenge stage, then you play the next opponent using the same cards, usually with an allowance to draw a few more before the next battle. If you beat all opponents (in a row) then you win the scenario, and your score is recorded for posterity. Tickle Dice ships with 10 scenarios for you to beat of varying difficulty levels.
That's going to take you literally many hours to do. The more the merrier. The way that each AI opponent banters and teases you is hilarious. “Wow! You scored 12 in hearts there! That'll surely be enough to win”, says the cow. “I wish that the developers had hired an animator so that I could throw my poo at you”, says the monkey. But aside from the bovine sarcasm and threats of flying faecal matter, the choices that the player makes in each game, and the varied strategies available for each given hand keep your brain turning over and the game humming along. Do you play your best tricks in the rows for points, or in the columns for tickles and re-rolls? Which cards do you discard as the scenario rolls on (you can only keep 25)?
Won all the scenarios? Not to fear. Choose puzzle mode where you have to assemble the assigned amount of dice from a non-randomly selected deck of cards. Or take on your friends and family in challenge mode. You get a random deck of 25 cards and assemble them for the most points. Then you generate a small file to email to others with the game and let them attempt to beat your score. Exporting and importing games is simple and all handled from in-game. You can set multiple user profiles on the same install and exchange challenges that way too.
There are only two things that I'm going to criticise, and they are certainly only very minor nitpicks. Players who are not familiar with poker and the relative value of a hand might struggle a bit, since this is not implicitly taught in the game. It's a great game for kids though once this initial hurdle has been passed. Also, the opponents aggregate dice roll score appears on their symbols for each suit on the right hand of the playfield. However on the player's side, this is the aggregate card score before the challenge starts, and then the dice score after that. Once you get used to the system, it's fine, but it is probably going to confuse a few players before they come to grips with the basics of the game.
Tickle Dice presents brilliantly. Great humour, clear and functional graphics, lots of options, tons of content and a core game mechanic that turns 10 minutes into 2 hours. It's original and addictive. It will appeal to gamers of all ages and tastes. It costs less than a cup of coffee. Simply put, there is no excuse for you not to go and buy this game right now. Now! Go on, before the monkey gets an animator in and the action really gets messy.
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