Soltrio Solitaire is a solitaire game that costs $10. Yes, solitaire. You know, that game that comes free with every Windows PC ever made? The single-player card game that is so easy to obtain for free on the Internet that it might as well be falling out of the sky? Right. This is that, except it's on Xbox Live Arcade, and it's 10 bucks. Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture?
For what it's worth, there are 13 different varieties of the game included in Soltrio Solitaire, as well as an online multiplayer component. You get your standard solitaire variety (its official title is Klondike), as well as games like FreeCell, Archway, Grandfather's Clock, Zodiac, Forty Thieves, and a lot of other fancy names for what are, in essence, weird rule set versions of the same solitaire game you know and love. Odds are most people won't know how most of these variations work, so luckily there's a rules menu that'll pop up when you click the right bumper. Unfortunately, the explanations aren't very good, so you'll probably have to do a bit of messing around until you accidentally do something right.
Nice as it is to have all these games in one spot, you can still find practically all these versions of solitaire somewhere on the Internet for zero dollars. Except, maybe, for the online multiplayer mode. Of course, you probably wouldn't want the multiplayer mode for free, let alone for cash money. Multiplayer has you competing against or playing with another player in an oddball variation of the game. When playing competitively in ranked matches, each player gets four card piles, along with a drawing pile and a junk pile. There are eight main piles with which to drop aces and then subsequent cards for each suit. Each player works to drop as many cards on the main piles as possible, as well as empty out the junk pile, which you can do any time you have a free pile or stackable section on your side of the board. The game ends once one player has their junk pile totally emptied. Cooperative play has you both trying to earn one collective score, and removes the garbage pile from the equation--you can also play a competitive version without the garbage pile in player matches, as well. It's a weird game, and not especially fun for more than a couple of plays. Cooperative play is just boring, and the competitive game often ends so quickly that it doesn't feel like you really did much. In our time playing, we rarely lost a competitive match, even when we didn't know what we were doing.
And that's pretty much the game. It's a lot of solitaire, over and over again. You do get some little ancillary features like the ability to design your own card decks and incessant sea-faring music that plays over everything, but ultimately the music begins to grate on the soul after a short while, and unless you're some kind of creepy playing-card aficionado, designing your own decks really isn't much fun, and the decks you can create don't even look very good.
There's also something that just feels wrong about playing solitaire with a controller. Moving the cards around with the analog sticks is far from ideal when compared with the relative ease of use you'll get with any PC mouse. Sometimes you'll miss card piles or grab the wrong cards because of the imprecision of the controls. You can just press the B button to offload cards and move them to proper spots in most cases, but still, being able to mouse-click and move, and do it accurately, is just a better deal all around. Additionally, the game also has a weird quirk with its card decks, specifically if you're playing the game on a standard definition TV. Making out the differences between the two red suits and two black suits becomes very difficult, as you can't quite see the shapes of the suits. HD sets don't seem to have this problem, but unless you're squinting a bunch, you'll have some issues with SD sets.
In truth, all these points and complaints are moot, because the whole concept surrounding Soltrio Solitaire is flawed from the get-go. Nobody needs to buy solitaire, because anyone who owns a PC already has it, and can get access to more, weirder variations of the game, typically for free, just by doing a bit of Web browsing. Silver Creek Entertainment is banking on your desire for quick and easy access to a bunch of games at once to get your $10, and perhaps even your desire to play solitaire against people (does it even qualify as solitaire anymore when two people are playing?). But don't be fooled; the convenience of the package is offset by the goofy controls and the multiplayer's lackluster nature. You don't need Soltrio Solitaire, no matter how much of a solitaire nut you are.