Championship Cards Review

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Publisher: DreamQuest Software
Developer: DreamQuest Software

Platforms: PC, PDA, Mobile
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium Processor, 32 MB RAM

DreamQuest has produced three card games under the Championship label – Championship Hearts, Championship Spades and Championship Euchre. Each card game is represented in its traditional mode of play along with standard variants. Hearts, Spades and Euchre are available for purchase and download separately or as a bundle in a "buy two, get one free" deal. PDA versions are available for both the Palm OS and Pocket PC. The games are also available for certain Nokia cell phones. (Note: The version used in this review for each of the games is Version 4.55.)

Rob de los Reyes

Applieth as ye will fabulous fkins of many choofings (Shakespeare skin - Euchre)Each of the Championship card games is a faithful reproduction of the tabletop game. There is no attempt to reinterpret them or cover them in some sort of theme (like, say, Battle Chess). Instead, the feeling of the games is rather neatly captured by the word "Pro" stuck at the end of the game titles. Each game is presented in a format instantly recognizable to a seasoned player. Even classical scoring methods, such as the use of cards not necessary for Euchre play to tick off points, are here brought into play. Also available are common game variants, as well as minor rule tweaks, like the ability to adjust the "bag" limit in Spades. Helpful tutorials and in-game hint mechanisms will have you playing like a retirement home champion in no time. As is apparent from the PC system requirements and the availability of the Championship series on PDAs and Nokia phones, the notion here is not to blow you away with 3D animation, but to give you anytime, hassle-free gaming. In this regard, the Championship series succeeds admirably.

If the game gets slow, you can continue tatting your tabletop (Default skin - Spades)For those interested in playing on the PC, one question presents itself instantly: What has DreamQuest got that Microsoft hasn't already included with Windows XP? Quite a few, if small, things. Visually, the Championship series is much more highly customizable. Table surfaces may be changed as well as card backings. In addition, each of your opponents is represented by a cartoon portrait. There are a variety from which to choose, and, if you were so inclined, you may even create one of your own and import it into the files. The Championship series also admits of "skins" that may be laid over the default settings. Most of the skins are user-submitted and available for free download from the DreamQuest web site. Applying the skins is as easy as downloading the file into the "Skins" folder and selecting "Apply skin" from the in-game menu. Many of the skins also include sound files – another aspect of the game presentation entirely customizable by the player. (Word to the wise: if you've loaded up the South Park skin at work, turn the sound off. Trust me.) The Championship games also include a MIDI player, and, as with the visual themes, user-submitted music is available for free download. But let's be clear. Free or not, it's still MIDI music. After a few kitsch-inspired chuckles, you'll likely disable the horrible bleeping MIDI in favor of WinAmp or some other third-party program, which, to be fair, DreamQuest openly invites you to do. There are myriad other manipulations big and small, including various difficulty settings that appear to have a meaningful impact on gameplay. All of these customizations individually are modest. All together, however, they are quite a bit more compelling than the sum of their parts.

Game not going your way?  Fling Mr. Hankey at your opponent (South Park skin - Hearts)Each of the Championship games is playable either single-player or over the internet or LAN with other human (and AI) players. Multiplayer games are routed through GameSpy Arcade, but you head straight into a Championship card games area rather than simply loading up the Arcade interface. Simplicity is the watchword here, as well. You can either launch a multiplayer game at startup or hop into a multiplayer game with one touch on a drop-down menu from the single-player game. As of now, the game lobby is a bit sparsely populated, but there always seems to be a free game. The multiplayer launch function also causes the games to look for updated versions, which, again, may then be downloaded for free. So even if you're not big on multiplayer, you'll want to load it up from time to time to grab the latest game version. One step up from the multiplayer you might find from other games on the internet are the organized tournaments run by DreamQuest and calendared at their home page.

Take your pasty, pencil-necked, D&D-loving self public with a multiplayer session over the internet.Strictly in terms of gameplay (on a PC), there is nothing here that cannot be found for free as part of Windows or perhaps somewhere in an internet game room. The Championship series is a real-to-life rendition of the classic card games – games made "classic" in part by their low cost and ease of play. The existence of so many free internet card games means that multiplayer play was more of a requirement for the Championship series than a particular extra inducement for purchase. Various renditions of Hearts and Spades abound, but Euchre (your reviewer's game of choice) is rather more difficult to find. Championship Euchre Pro is therefore welcome largely by virtue of its mere existence. It is not enough to say, however, that each of the games works just like a "real" card game. In 2002, a "working" card game no longer astounds. Other companies' versions of these games are almost universally bland, but, heck, they're free. The Championship series, by contrast, is bursting with silly personality, but costs as much as a top-shelf 3D action game. What DreamQuest is surely banking on with PC gamers is that, with all this customizability, you may have found the last Hearts/Spades/Euchre game you'll ever need to buy. At the relatively steep price tag of $49.99 for the three games as a bundle, it would almost have to be.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on August 18, 2002 7:17 PM.

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