Daily iPad App: Fairway Solitaire

Big Fish Games has been producing Mac and PC titles for a while, and we've chronicled a few of their iOS outings here on TUAW. The company has long tried to bring its own flavor of casual gaming to iOS with some success (mostly in hidden object games). Today, I can say this about Fairway Solitaire: It's the best Big Fish Games title I've ever played.

The company knows how to build great content into its titles, and Fairway Solitaire is a fine example. There are many levels to play through, and the graphics and sounds are big, bright, and colorful. But the kicker here is gameplay. Most Big Fish games use one core mechanic (like finding hidden objects), but Fairway Solitaire somehow makes it endlessly satisfying to match cards in a pile.

Part of the fun is the pairing of solitaire and golf. The idea is to clear the board, leaving as few cards as possible. Your score translates to golf holes, so you must determine how to best clear the board for the lowest score. The golf mechanic isn't perfect. For example, clearing many cards in a row builds a sand trap, which helps you hit a bonus shot. That's odd.

There's also a cute gopher character that seems thrown in. I presume because someone at Big Fish believes every game needs a cute character. Or is a fan of Caddyshack.

One of Fairway Solitaire's stranger features eventually grew on me. The game's running joke as it were features golf-style commentary. Two unseen characters make jokes when you don't play for a while, or start off a certain hole with a little bit of fun. At first, I found it distracting, but the characters have grown on me (more than the gopher ever did).

In short, despite my issues with Big Fish's sensibilities, Fairway Solitaire is a great title, especially on the iPad's big bright screen. It's a free download with several courses to play through. Additional content is available via in-app purchase. I'm glad to see Big Fish come through with a quality hit and feel certain we'll see more big games from them in the future.