Multiplayer card games are among the most popular online games, though you wouldn't know that unless you delved into the world of "casual gaming," where card, board, and word games are the order of the day. Silver Creek Entertainment has delivered three such games to the Xbox 360 with hopes of attracting a similar crowd on the new console. In addition to Hardwood Backgammon and Hardwood Hearts, the developer has also delivered an authentic four-player game of Spades. If you're a fan of Spades, this game has some Spades for you. It's not the most dynamic-looking game in the world, but it gets the job done.
Spades is a four-player card game that is usually played in teams of two. You and your partner bet on how many "tricks" you can take, then the four players take turns laying cards on the table in an attempt to win all of the tricks you bet on without going over. It isn't the most straightforward game in the world, though Hardwood Spades has four tutorials devoted to different aspects of the game. That, combined with a little practice, goes a long way.
There are a handful of gameplay options to choose from before getting onto the card table. You can elect to play with a partner, three single players, or four single players. There are a few different game types that impact how betting is handled, and you can enable or disable things like blind nils or shooting the moon. You can play against the computer if you can get on Xbox Live, and take on real opponents using the different rule sets. There's no option for local multiplayer, but because that would depend on you telling people to turn away from the screen when it isn't their turn (so they couldn't see other players' cards), that's an understandable omission.
Graphically, the game's completely bare-bones. There are a few different backgrounds to choose from, but the game doesn't go out of its way to wow you with its visuals. They get the job done. The sound is also very bare, with some generic background music that gets old very, very quickly.
This game is for people that are already fans of Spades who are looking to play Spades on their televisions instead of their computers. If you're interested in a card game, but don't already specifically play Spades, you should give the demo a shot, but don't expect to be blown away.