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Solitaire Poker (Game Gear, 1991)

A cautionary tale.

Shadows in the night.

PUBLISHER: Face (JP), Sega (US/EU)

DEVELOPER: Possibly ASCII, Face, or Login Soft.

RELEASE DATE: 05/31/91 (JP), 09/1991 (US), 12/1991 (EU)

Solitaire Poker is a dangerous game, one that kids should warn their parents about.

Little Johnny, he found out the hard way. His Game Gear makes its way into the hands of his father. Business trip after business trip, card deck after card deck, corpses of AA batteries strewn about on jet plane floors. Frequent flyer miles be damned, Johnny’s dad just can’t stop. Not even Tetris certainly not Columns – could turn a man into such an incapable automaton.

Let the games begin.

Johnny and his mother think to stage an intervention, but one morning they spy the Game Gear on the dining table, unattended. For the first time, they turn on Solitaire Poker, see what all the fuss is about. Johnny is mercifully blind. Just cards, he says. Row after row of cards. What does Dad see in this?

Johnny’s mom is more determined. I don’t know, sweetie, she says, but I need to understand. Johnny runs off to school, while his mom stays put, enticed by the shrill classical music and never-ending suits.

A few good rounds is all it takes.

School is over, and the scene is terrible. Dad and Mom are both trapped now. Dad’s giving strategies, while Mom is yelling at him to stop, she knows how to play the damn game.

Mom and Dad see the horror on Johnny’s fresh face. Instead of acknowledging their sins, they explain themselves. Look here, boy, Dad exclaims, pushing the Game Gear into Johnny’s face. You choose from the cards on the left, arranged like they are in Solitaire, and place them on the right into horizontal, vertical or diagonal poker sets; Royal Flush, Straight Flush, 3-of-a-Kind, things like that. Different sets give you different point amounts.

Even the best of us need to see the point values from time to time.

Mom interrupts and explains that the goal is to get or exceed the amount of points that each round dictates. Whatever points you get beyond the set amount go into a “point bank.” Later rounds require more points to clear, so the excess points in your point bank usually become necessary.

Dad grins, like a carnival barker spotting his prey. Fifteen rounds per game, he cries, and if seeing only one card turned up doesn’t excite you, choose other options like “View-2.” This gives you the ability to see three cards face-up at once, but raises the point amount needed to clear the round. Or how about “View-3,” which alternates between three different patterns of face-up cards? “Try-1” is sure to impress: one round, high point clear, and card positions differ based on the difficulty you choose. Sensational!

Only the steeliest hearts can resist.

Johnny’s had enough. That might be his Game Gear, but these aren’t his parents. Suddenly, the Game Gear is nowhere to be seen, and neither is Johnny. His parents can’t see. Where are the cards? Johnny’s out the front door, and before he can reconsider, the Game Gear flies into the air and lands in the street with a sizable crash.

The temptress cheering you on.

The Game Gear is bulky, but Johnny’s got an arm. Who would prevail, the bulbous casing or the rough asphalt? Johnny hovers to the street, hoping his nightmare is over. He picks up the Game Gear and smiles when he sees the cracked screen. Too cracked to discern what lies beneath. Solitaire Poker gets removed from its snug home on the Game Gear’s back and finds no comfort beneath Johnny’s foot. Finally, he feels the snap. The work is done.

The battle is won.

From the road, Johnny gazes up at his home. Picket fence, two cars, a manicured lawn, and his parents emerging from a whitewashed tomb. Dazed, they look at Johnny, unsure of his actions. Dad wants to yell, Mom wants to sob. A couple walking their dog on the sidewalk pretend not to stare. The sun soaks up the life force of the neighborhood. A tenuous peace reigns, at least until the next time.




(for real, I loved this game – too much. I am Johnny’s parents and Johnny combined.)

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