Hoyle has been a staple of gaming, and Hoyle Classic Card Games is the most recent release by Sierra to translate favorite parlor games into the electronic medium. From Gin Rummy to Spades, Hoyle Classic offers eleven different card games, enough to keep players in the chips for hours.
Beginning with the choice between playing in a cozy cabin or on an interstellar space flight, Sierra immediately puts you into a fun and friendly interface. A search through the cabin's bookshelf reveals the accessories primary to each game. Rest the cursor on a pile of chips, and a pop-up appears, informing you that this is the gateway to Poker. Click on the photo of the Golden Gate Bridge and you are taken to the game of Bridge. If you are unfamiliar with the rules or strategies of a particular game, there is a wonderful help area available. Once a game is chosen, you can navigate between any of the other ten by a standard pull-down menu bar, or you can return to a main menu. All of your player statistics are transferred and taken with you and may be inspected at any time, giving you an idea of how you are stacking up against the competition. And the competition in Hoyle Classic can be fierce.
There are 12 characters to play against here, each possessing a unique blend of talent and personality, traits that are important to observe in games such as Poker. The characters range from a morphing android that does impersonations of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe, to a cuddly looking grizzly bear who is quick to fold on most opening bets (unless it's holding a winning hand), and they provide plenty of company. Banter is plenty around the card tables, and unless you have a strict aversion to puns, it is often quite humorous. However, if the chatter becomes too much, you can adjust its frequency in the controls area, where you can select backgrounds, music, or playing card graphics as well.
Sierra does a nice job of bringing classic card games to the PC with Hoyle Classic; the graphics are simple and attractive, and gameplay is quite often challenging. Network play is also an option, so you can try to bluff your friends out of a paycheck. The variety of games and simple interface make Hoyle Classic a safe bet.