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Review: The Chronicles of Emerland: Solitaire

Table of Contents

Quick Info

Gore & Brutality Magic Sex Civility Religious Objections
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Additional Notes
This game offers Achievements (or similar awards)! Steam Trading Cards are available!

Summary of major issues
As this game is based around a fairy tale style story, it's full of depictions of magic, wizards, elves, dwarves, merfolk, and other magical creatures. Overall, the game's tone is almost too lighthearted for its own good.

Screenshots

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Searching for affected objects

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One of many levels

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Hints let you know how to deal with new obstacles

General Information

Genre:Card Game ESRB Rating:NR - Not Rated
License:Commercial My Rating:Everyone
Played on:Martha, Thaddeus
Available from: Gamer's Gate, Steam
Save System:Your progress is saved when you return to the map. You cannot save in the middle of a level, so you'll need to complete all 10 hands in one go.

Game Overview

Chronicles of Emerland Solitaire is, as the name implies, a story based solitaire game. You take on the role of a hopeful apprentice to an elderly "card wizard", though your training in this magical art is interrupted by the reappearance of his former student. Having succumbed to the lure of the Dark Side, this interloper begins trying to take over the world with his new, twisted abilities. Naturally, this means it's up to you to track him down and put a stop to his mad schemes. Along the way, you'll journey across the world, encounter various races, obtain their elemental powers, and play at least 240 hands of high-low solitaire.

Yes, it's admittedly as corny as it sounds, but a corny story now and then is worth it if the game is fun, making this title a worthwhile palette cleanser among all of the serious and gritty games out there. Just don't expect too much from it, as the ending is somewhat of a let down.

That said, I'd recommended this title over Faerie Solitaire, a better known game in the same genre. The powerups in this game are more effective, the music is more relaxing, and while there is some grinding required to earn the harder achievements, the extra work actually pays off.

Pros

Voice acting? In a card game?
Unexpectedly, yes. The various characters talk directly to the player, and all of their lines come with voiceovers. While the fact they provided voice acting for an inexpensive card game is a nice touch, it's not exactly the best. Some of the actors sound strained or like they're trying a bit too hard. Gold star for effort though.


Recharging powerups
During your journey, three heroes and one heroine join your party. Their skills act as powerups during the game, and you recharge them by collecting cards of a specific suit. For example, the Elf's bow skill (easily the most useful of the four skills) is recharged by collecting clubs. You can also see how soon each skill will be available: the character's portrait loses its color when the ability is used, and as you collect cards of that character's suit, the color slowly returns.


Level goals are easy
For the most part, you're going to be playing for score. You're likely to find everything you need during the level without having to clear every card, so don't worry too much and take it easy. That said, there is a benefit to clearing most of the cards in a level: the more you clear, the more experience you earn. This causes your abilities to grow, and unlocks new powerups that can help you out. Of course, if you're not happy with the result of a level, you can simply replay it -- there's no penalty for doing a level over.

On the flip side, the final level is much harder than any other level in the game, as you're facing off with the evil wizard's monstrous creation. Instead of collecting six to eight objects like you would in a typical level, this level has you trying to collect sixty objects! Make sure you have a ton of wild cards, undos, and other tools at your disposal!


Hidden object minigames
At various points in your quest, you'll take a break from playing cards and instead play a short hidden object scene. These come in two forms: the first only involves finding something in the current scene, while the second has you find objects that are magically shifting from one thing to another. The latter is actually harder than it sounds, as they fade between forms rather slowly, making it easy to overlook something that wasn't there a moment ago. During the normal hidden object scenes, you may also need to interact with the environment to move something out of the way. These areas shine faintly every so often, and your cursor changes when it's over something that can be moved, giving away the location of these areas.

In both modes, you can get a hint to expose something. The hint button recharges over time, allowing you to use as many hints as you want.


Awards and Achievements
This game didn't originally come out on Steam, but it did provide its own form of achievements. These "trophies" are collected in the same way as normal achievements, and are generally earned by gaining large amounts of experience. Earning them all requires careful planning and preparation, as you need to completely clear level after level to earn the highest rank. On Steam, these are normal achievements, though they can still be found in-game as trophies.

In a bit of a twist, this also means that you can earn them over and over again, as the in-game awards aren't tied to your Steam profile.


Cons

Grinding for experience
If you're trying to reach those higher ranks, you're going to have to play levels over and over again until you clear every card. This isn't exactly easy, so it'll take some time. One of the ways you can make this easier for yourself is to go back and replay early levels once you've unlocked the coin powerup. This will let you earn money even on levels you've already cleared, and there are a few items in the shop that'll make it easier to gain experience. Unfortunately, this also means a lot of repetition and backtracking, something many gamers aren't a fan of.


The final level
You can get away with leaving a lot of cards behind for most of the game. However, the final level requires you to dig for a large number of items, and this in turn requires you to play exceptionally well. A lot of people get a bad surprise by the sudden difficulty spike and in turn, they get frustrated or disappointed. Adding to the disappointment is that what comes after the level is rather anticlimactic, bordering on "a winner is you".


Concerns and Issues

Fantasy races and magic
This game plays like a fairy tale, and like most fairy tales, it's set in a world filled with magic. Counting the player, there are three wizards, and you'll visit the homelands of the elves, the dwarves, and the merfolk over the course of the story.

Additionally, the game itself is based on the idea of "card magic". When the cards are spread out, uncovering them magically reveals (or produces) objects that you need. Later in the game, magical hazards appear, making it harder to clear the cards and obtain the items buried under them.

Magic can also be found at various altars, where powerful embodiments of the elements are kept. Some of the other examples of magic include things like the entrance to the dwarven mines, which is protected by magical runes.