Solitaire Dungeon Escape comes to the Wii U from the app store.  It’s a port of the full 160 level game  (the free version offers 80 levels) and should you stick with it you’ll be playing for a good long while.  The dungeon setting and rescue the princess story provide simple window dressing to the card playing, but it’s surprisingly an effective incentive to keep going.

Solitaire Dungeon Escape - titleThe dungeon consists of 10 rooms with 16 puzzles in each.  Each puzzle victory forms part of a key  and once all 16 are beaten the key is fully formed allowing you access to the next dungeon area.  I’m not sure what variant(s) of solitaire this game showcases, but there is diversity in the number of cards used as well as their layouts.

The control is basic tapping of the GamePad screen with the stylus.  There’s an undo button which you can use liberally, and must in order to play your wild card effectively to reach certain objectives.  It does seem like a missed opportunity however that for a game encouraging long sequences for high point totals there’s no means to record a top score.

Solitaire Dungeon 3The dungeon setting provides atmosphere for what could have easily been a dull looking game.  The camera pans around between puzzles like a retro PC first person dungeon crawler to provide new angles on your surroundings.  Unfortunately a shortage of lighting, and stutter every time the screen moves, dampens the effect.  The unobtrusive music adds to the ambience, but there is only one track during gameplay – not enough to sustain 160 levels.

Solitaire Dungeon 4Card titles often boil down to ‘luck of the draw’ and that’s certainly the case here.  To extend the difficulty and make things more interesting there are further challenges.  Achieving a certain score, or clearing X amount of cards in a row is one thing, but this game goes a bit over the top.  There are a few examples, but strict time limits is probably the most misplaced.  For a title where your direct control is limited, this is frankly inappropriate.  It makes a fun game screech to a halt in the later puzzles, and I’ve no doubt many will simply quit in frustration as success or failure is determined not by them, but by the game.  Who finds design like that enjoyable?

Solitaire DungeonSolitaire Dungeon Escape unfortunately has a plethora of glitches, and I’m not talking minor ones.  We ran into multiple instances of game breaking bugs!  Among them, the game repeatedly locked up our Wii U console for one.  We also had a number of instances where every single card drawn flipped to the same number.  I strongly advocate for more play testing from Jose Varela Games.

Solitaire Dungeon Escape takes a winning card formula and makes it more interesting with an atmospheric setting.  Unfortunately some misplaced design choices and (especially) a number of game breaking bugs make it impossible to recommend in good conscience.  I seriously hope the game receives a patch!  Jose Varela Games have produced a number of titles with potential that were let down by unfortunate issues in design and execution, and this is another one of them.  In the meantime if you’re a card fan check out the free app version.  Save $4.99 and skip this sloppy Wii U port until it’s fixed.