A good Xbox solitaire game is rarer than it should be. All we’re looking for is a library of puzzles to chip away at while we’re waiting for games to download. Don’t overcomplicate it with multiplayer or two-hundred game variants: just give us varied layouts, quantity and perhaps some wild-cards to vary our strategies. Add on some achievements, and you have our money.
Solitaire TriPeaks Flowers gets so, so close to nailing this. In many ways it ticks all the boxes we mentioned. But it’s the unticked box we didn’t even consider that’s the problem: the controls. It’s not something we added to our list of wants, simply because good controls on a card game should be a given. Press left to move to the card to the left, and press a button to select it. But Solitaire TriPeaks Flowers falls at this smallest of hurdles.
If you’ve not played a TriPeaks game, then it’s worth a bit of context. It’s a game of solitaire, but with a fascination around putting the cards in pyramid shapes. If you’ve played Golf, Spider Solitaire or Black Hole, then you will also be in familiar territory. Solitaire TriPeaks Flowers presents itself as triangular structures of playing cards, with access to some cards blocked by others, and you’re using the cards in your hand to remove them. If you have a card one up or one down from a face-up card then you can remove it, and you can keep removing cards as long as they form a sequence in this way.
Rather than opt to do something fancy, Solitaire TriPeaks Flowers goes for sheer quantity. There are 340 puzzles here, a monumentally huge number for a £3.29 game. If you consider that each puzzle has a three-star grading system, encouraging you to clear it in a set time-limit and with a long enough streak, then you even have reasons to replay that 340. Each puzzle is randomly generated, so you could even find the layout you like and just replay it endlessly to relax.
Level-to-level there isn’t a huge amount of variety, and you’ll be adamant that you’ve played some repeats. But that’s fine, as it creates a neat pacing: one moment you’re playing an elaborate layout, and then you’re returning to a couple of simple pyramids as a change of speed.
Solitaire TriPeaks Flowers adds a new obstacle every twenty levels or so. There are cat cards that only get removed when you find a milk-bowl card, or ‘locks’ that hide cards behind a kind of curtain, and you can only reveal them if you play enough red cards, for example. We’ve played a fair few solitaire games, particularly on mobile, and these effects were often new to us, and always well-designed. Sure, they don’t do much more than block cards momentarily, but they do it in a variety of interesting ways.
And to get you over the hump of a difficult puzzle (this is a linear game with levels that have to be unlocked sequentially) Solitaire TriPeaks Flowers shows its free-to-play, mobile colours. You get daily login bonuses which hand you cash and wild cards. Completing puzzles gives you them too, and getting enough stars unlocks chests, which chucks even more goodies onto the pile. On mobile, these would undoubtedly have been a pain in the arse, drip-fed until you paid to unlock more with real-world cash, but here it’s all fine and dandy. You get more than you need of everything, and only star-chasers will feel like they are throttled in any way.
There’s a flower shop theme, as you might note from screenshots and the ‘Flowers’ in the title, but don’t get too excited – it means bugger all. The levels are broken up into chapters of twenty levels with ‘Geranium’ or ‘Poppy’ as the titles, and the number of stars you get in a level reflects the number of flowers that appear in the related vase. While we weren’t expecting a mini Stardew Valley, we hoped that the ‘Flowers’ would be more than a glorified rating system.
That’s Solitaire TriPeaks Flowers in a nutshell, and it’s everything we’d want, if we’re being honest. No frills, just lots of content and some variety in the obstacles and wild cards. So, let’s get onto the bit where it kneecaps itself.
There’s no way round it: the controls are broken. For some unbegotten reason, you move to the next card based on the orientation of the card you have selected. What this means is that, if the card you have selected is placed horizontally, you have to press down to move left, because – from the card’s perspective – down is indeed left. This is the product of a sick, unhealthy mind. Imagine a row of horizontal cards in a line: you have to press down to go left and up to go right. It’s a crime, I tell you.
And heaven forbid that cards are offset from each other. If there are five cards in a row, but one of those cards is ever-so-slightly higher or lower than the others, then you can’t select it. You will be cycling through the other four. We got into situations where a pile was simply un-selectable – trust us, we flipping tried – which can be unbelievably frustrating when you’re chasing a time, sequence or number of stars.
Let us rant one last time. If you remove a card, it feels completely random which card will be selected as default afterwards. So, remove a card in the centre of the puzzle, and your cursor will suddenly be on the far-left or far-right. It means you’ve got to correct yourself and find your cursor with each press of a button, which isn’t too bad… until your cursor appears on things like your card stack or a wild card. Press a button accidentally, and you’re suddenly using something that you didn’t want, undermining your score for the level.
It’s control-sabotage. We don’t often play games that feel this well-created, this superbly structured, only to have the controls swing in like a wrecking ball, sending the whole thing toppling. We found ourselves deliberately removing horizontal and offset cards from the layout, simply because we knew they were a mess to interact with, which shouldn’t be a factor in choosing cards.
It’s possible to overcome these issues. We’ll probably return to Solitaire TriPeaks Flowers, simply because we’ve trained ourselves to overcome the issues, and we enjoyed the rest so much. But did the caveat have to be some thumpingly large?
It’s not often that we’d rake a card game over the coals for its controls, but Solitaire TriPeaks Flowers fumbles something as simple as moving left or right. It overshadows a well-presented mobile port that does everything else right, give or take an under-used flower theme. It’s a cheap and generous rose with a particularly sharp thorn, so come with gloves.
You can buy Solitaire TriPeaks Flowers for £3.29 from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S