Game Review - by James Allen
It seems that a simple kind of computer game to make is one simulating some sort of card game. This is evident because there are numerous shareware offerings found all over the internet, spanning almost every conceivable card game out there. Following in this same vein is Hardwood Hearts, brought to us by Silver Creek Entertainment. This contribution uses a fantasy theme throughout, to forward its play and differentiate itself from other hearts games. So, will Hardwood Hearts space itself from other games of its type? And, equally important, will I be able to go through the entire review without making a Hardwood joke?
Not surprisingly, Hardwood Hearts consists of playing a game of hearts against computer opponents or over the Internet through its matching service. The Internet play uses a game lobby, and it's very easy to use and navigate: no typing in IP addresses for us! If engaging in play with real humans isn't your bag, you can always play the computer AI opponents. You can customize each game in several areas (as much as you can change hearts). You can enable the jack of diamonds bonus, shooting the sun or moon, spot hearts (where the card values are the number of points gained), always pass, or a timed game. If you choose to play until a certain number of team points, you can pick how many to play until. You can customize your character portrait, and choose your computer opponents (or randomize them). To familiarize yourself with the game, some very short tutorials are included, which re on the alterations between Hardwood Hearts and other hearts games. Also, each game and every trick is recorded in a text file for further review (hey, why not?). Hardwood Hearts features most of what you'd expect in a hearts game, having customization options available in spades…I mean hearts.
The sound is very good, for a card game. First off, the background music fits the atmosphere of fantasy very nicely: you can of course turn the tunes off, but the music adds to the sound experience. Sounds are present as the card are dealt and fall to the table and when hearts get collected, and most of the fooms (yeah, you heard me) have appropriate effects (such as bursting bubbles during said foom). However, the characters themselves do not respond during the game, either in sound or otherwise. So, it seems like you are playing against cardboard cutouts rather than computer representations of "real" opponents. But you'll be listening to the music anyway.
Well, it's hearts. Not much is changed here from the normal game you and I remember from ages gone by (or five minutes ago). The game, as I've stated before, is wrapped in a fantasy envelope, so it's like you're playing hearts in (insert favorite fantasy game here). The AI is pretty good: of course, it's hard to screw up the AI in a card game, but it can be done, and it isn't done here. It doesn't seem that each character plays their own way corresponding to their character, but how could you? Oh, yes, the fooming. Basically, fooming is shooting stuff (soap, lightning, money) at other players in the game, which takes the place of tiresome words and that arduous task of typing. However, when you play the computer players, they do not respond to your fooming, so it's really meant for online play. So, in the end, we have a game of hearts with fooming. I guarantee no other game has those attributes!
The graphics are some of the best I've seen in a card game. They could have gone the easy route of Solitaire (eating up hard drive space since who knows when), but the effects are nice, and I have to say, drew me back a couple of time to play the game again. The cards are rendered in 3D, so they actually look like real objects rather than featureless rectangles. They don't do flips and twirls, but it's still a pleasant effect. Also, the floating and sparkling hearts are also very elegant, as they float toward the unlucky recipient. In the realm of foom effects, some are much better than others, but they are all just little extras added to the game. Still, Hardwood Hearts has the finest graphics in a hearts game that I can remember.
Hardwood Hearts is a fairly good hearts game. We have 3-D cards, special effects, and who could forget fooming. But, it's still just hearts. So, if you like hearts, then Hardwood Hearts may be for you. If not, then just go foom yourself.