By – Steven Smith

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For anyone who has owned a Windows based PC in the past few decades, a computer solitaire game is nothing new. So when given the chance to review The Revills Games new Chef Solitaire USA I was hoping that the developers could offer some new or interesting twist to this old classic.  The style of play in Chef Solitaire USA is similar to the classic Golf or Tri Peak version. Cards are laid out face down in a series of stacks to form a specific pattern, the top card on each stack is turned face up. The player is given the remainder of the deck as their Stock to start. The top card of the stock is turned over and the game begins. This card becomes your discard pile and the player must remove cards from the stacks in either an ascending or descending order.

So if the face up card is a 5 the player can move either a 6 or 4 to the discard pile, the suit of the card is irrelevant. Several cards may be taken from the stacks provided they are all in sequence, such as 5-6-7-8-7-8-9-10-J. You may change direction and on the easier difficulty levels you are allowed to “turn the corner” which allows you to bridge the King and the Two by using the Ace. The object is to remove all cards from the stacks into your discard pile. Again, if you have played computer solitaire before then this should all be very familiar to you.

Where Chef Solitaire USA starts to distinguish itself is in the win conditions. When the cards are first laid out there will be a few marked with a toque or chef’s hat in the corner. There is also a progress bar at the top of your screen marked with three stars. Removing cards from the stacks fills this bar and earns you stars. In order to win a hand you must remove all the chef’s hat cards and get a certain amount of stars. In the beginning you only need one star to advance, but at higher levels this increases to two and eventually three stars. Another unique game change are locked cards. Some cards might be locked down by an item such as a fried egg or bacon, which can only be removed by a special card found somewhere else within the stacks. The bacon, for example, can only be removed by finding the tongs card.

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At higher levels there may be two or three cards locked by these special items. The initial layout of the cards changes each new hand, which allows the game to increase difficulty over time. Some layouts are similar to classic solitaire pyramids or rows, while other are wholly unique with cards laid out at certain angles to either form shapes or to cover multiple rows or stacks. There are even some layouts that seem to have no coherent thought to them, looking more like just a random pile of cards than an arranged pattern. If a certain hand is just too much for you there is the option of skipping it, however you will earn zero stars for that hand. Stars are used to unlock new levels, if you don’t have enough then you must go back and replay those hands to earn more.

At the end of each hand you are also given a numerical score, called cash, based on how well you played. Removing a string of cards in sequence, called a combo in game, will greatly increase this score. You also get points for having cards left over in you stock when the playing field is cleared. Sometimes your stock will will include special mini game cards, playing these mini games will net you points as well. There are several familiar styles of mini game, such as Match-3 and Memory.

You may also get the Burger Run, where you are given a picture of a hamburger which you must recreate from an array of ingredients, and Kitchen Leak in which you must connect two water pipes from a random selection of pipe pieces. All games are timed and points are awarded upon completion. The chances of getting these cards is related to the difficulty setting, there are fewer on higher difficulty. If for some reason you really don’t want to bother with mini games, they all have a Skip button which may be pressed at any time. Skipping a mini game forfeits any winnings you may have earned in that particular session. Since these game points translate into cash it might be best to play through them to increase your earnings as this will allow you to unlock items in the game Store.

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The in game store has several items for sale that can give you an edge in playing the game, in other words they help you cheat! In keeping with the chef theme these items are all kitchen related, such as a frying pan, ladle, egg timer or blender. Each item in the store can have an effect on gameplay, some are passive such as allowing you to see the next card in your stock or having a percentage of cards in the stacks turned face up in the initial layout. Other items give you an active ability. Purchasing the Menu Board give you a wild card that can be played once a hand. The Meat Cleaver item will randomly remove one card from the stacks when used, it must then be recharged by adding cards to your discard pile. There are several items in the store and they unlock as you advance to new levels.

The game consists of 48 levels, represented by the states on a map of the USA. Each state has 10 games or hands in it. Once you complete the 10th hand you can unlock the next state, provided you have earned enough stars during gameplay. Opening up a new state advances not only the game but the storyline as well.

Yes, this solitaire game has characters and a plot line. It’s a story of a woman named Stacey whose book store failed, so she decides to open a restaurant instead. Every few levels you will get a fully voiced excerpt from Staceys diary in which she describes hiring new people, having a food critic visit the restaurant and even being featured on a TV show called “Restaurant Bootcamp”. It’s not really clear why The Revills Games developers chose a restaurant theme for a solitaire game, but the story is a nice way to break up the repetitiveness of gameplay during extended play sessions.

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Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

Chef Solitaire USA more than met my expectations for offering some unique elements to an age old card game. With the addition of unlockable store items and locked cards I was able to explore other gameplay strategies than what would be possible in a normal solitaire game.  If you are someone who enjoys a good solitaire game, or are just looking for a quick coffee break style game, then I encourage you to spend the $4.99 for Chef Solitaire USA.

Chef Solitaire USA Technical Summary:

  • Time Played – 12 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1280×720
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • DRM – Steam
  • Control Scheme – Mouse
  • System Specification – 2.93GHz Intel i7 870, 4GB RAM, GeForce 9800GT
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – None Save Game Location – C:\ProgramData\The Revills Games\Chef Solitaire USA\profiles

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