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Dreamland Solitaire Review

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We are a little late to the Dreamland Solitaire party. So late, in fact, that two sequels have been rattled out in quick succession. Better late than never, though, as we buckle down for a Dreamland Solitaire marathon. 

We didn’t realise just how much Solitaire we were committing to though. Not only were we signing up for three games on the trot, but each game came rammed with over 200 puzzles each. That’s a ridiculous number. An inhuman number. Whenever I visited my Nan, she was playing Solitaire, and I’m not convinced she got to 200 games. 

It’s worth celebrating straight away: Dreamland Solitaire is a lot of solitaire for what is an extremely budget package. You’re paying less than a fiver for this. And we can say with confidence that it’s at least a week’s worth of play. That’s not insignificant, and immediately makes Dreamland Solitaire something you might want to consider. 

Dreamland Solitaire review 1
It’s Solitaire – in Dreamland

But quantity isn’t quality. There are plenty of solitaire games on the Xbox, and they can be too dry (THE Table Game Deluxe Pack comes to mind) or better suited to other control schemes (the colourful but awkward Solitaire TriPeaks Flowers being a good example). It’s still easy to get a Solitaire game on Xbox wrong, even if you might consider them simple games at their heart. 

Developers Alawar Entertainment make it look easy. Dreamland Solitaire is up there with the best, and we’d put it level with, or just beyond, our favourites: Solitaire TriPeaks Flowers and World of Solitaire. This is a more-ish, slick execution of the parlour classic. Suddenly, our self-imposed challenge to play all of the Dreamland Solitaire games looks like a wise one (ask us again after 600 puzzles), because – as a series – these are class. 

It’s worth noting that this isn’t a compendium-like experience, such as World of Solitaire. If you want a wide variety of Solitaire games, moving from TriPeaks to Spider to FreeCell, then you should probably head elsewhere. This is more in the camp of the ‘arcade solitaire games’ you find on mobile: a single execution of TriPeaks-like solitaire, but with power-ups, progression tracks and other whistles dangling off it. This is no simulation. This is a sugary, over-the-top Solitaire confection. Set your expectations there. 

The 200 levels are lined up like dominoes on a single map. One by one you topple them, generating a star ranking based on how many cards you cleared, and a big, purple dot if you managed to clear every card with a purple haze surrounding it. There’s cash too, generated from cards with a yellowish haze, but they all ultimately track the same thing: clear all the cards in a puzzle, and you will be duly rewarded. 

Which is to say that the 200 puzzles can easily become more than that, if you’re eager to gain every collectible. Making that ever-so-slightly tempting is a wee construction that gets displayed after every level. Your purple potions, for some reason that we can’t quite figure, can be spent on adding balconies, fences, caves and lampposts to your dwelling, building it over time. It’s a little dislocated from all the cards and puzzle-playing, but it’s nice that your mad skills eventually lead to something constructive.

Dreamland Solitaire review 2
How many puzzles do you want?

Oh, and there’s an upgrade system too, as the cash can be frivolously spent in a shop. Some of these are cosmetic – a new shuffling animation anyone? – while others have a touch more utility. You can gain slots for wild cards to socket into (revealed from under the puzzles themselves), while you can purchase more uses of the Undo feature, get more cards in your starting deck, or unlock powers that accumulate over time. If there’s a criticism, some of the more costly upgrades verge on the unnecessary (do you really need five ‘Undo’s per level?), but mostly this is a generous, desirable set of wares.

But a solitaire game should live or die by its gameplay, and Dreamland Solitaire duly shines. The base controls are spot on: it adopts a cursor rather than snapping to individual cards, and the choice pays off. There’s no awkward highlighting of cards, and the cursor is smooth and responsive enough to never be a burden. Some elements on the HUD are a little fiddly to choose – picking individual wild cards when you’ve unlocked ALL of them is a tad imprecise – but generally this is smooth as they come. 

As mentioned, Dreamland Solitaire is an arcade interpretation, and it’s quick to flaunt what it’s got. Within 50 levels you will have seen everything it has to offer: torch and fire cards that can be combined to shoo away spiders; locks that need keys; iced cards that need to be removed twice; and shields that require all four suits to have been collected once. They are varied and offer just enough differentiation from each other. You’ll need varied strategies if you want to overcome them. 

Therein lies a flaw, though. Dreamland Solitaire is so quick to show its cards, that it has nothing remaining for the final 150 levels. There isn’t a single new addition to the roster of power-ups and blockers in the final three quarters of the game, and we’d suggest that’s unwise. The levels shuffle things about and make certain obstacles the focus, but there simply isn’t enough in Dreamland Solitaire’s toybox to warrant taking this approach. We can squint and imagine a version of Dreamland Solitaire that contained two or three more mechanics, spreading them out more evenly across its campaign. That would have added another half mark to the score, we’d suggest. 

Not that it’s fatal to Dreamland Solitaire. Explore its cavernous depths over ten or so thirty-minute sessions and you have nothing to worry about. The fatigue only really kicks in if you’re doing a Dreamland Solitaire all-nighter. Because this is so laid-back and cherry-smooth that the repetition doesn’t quite catch up until the second hour of playing it. 

Dreamland Solitaire review 3
King of the solitaire scene

And there’s always Dreamland Solitaire 2, right? We can’t wait to see if Dreamland Solitaire: Dragon’s Fury compounds the issue of slightly repetitive levels, or adds in more hazards and whistles to make things interesting. Because Dreamland Solitaire is an extremely strong foundation to work from. 

Dreamland Solitaire slightly overplays its hand in terms of number of levels, but generally it did everything we wanted from it and more. This fine-tuned, arcadey take on solitaire hit the spot, and we’re eager to see if the sequels do the same.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Console controls are pitch-perfect
  • Loads of power-ups and ways to progress
  • 200 levels is massive for the money
  • Neatly presented
Cons:
  • Not enough obstacles
  • Slightly repetitive
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One
  • Release date and price - 2 February 2024 | £4.99
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Console controls are pitch-perfect</li> <li>Loads of power-ups and ways to progress</li> <li>200 levels is massive for the money</li> <li>Neatly presented</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Not enough obstacles</li> <li>Slightly repetitive</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One <li>Release date and price - 2 February 2024 | £4.99</li> </ul>Dreamland Solitaire Review
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