Hearts Deluxe 4.3 – Review

Hearts Deluxe 4.3
freeVerse Software
Shareware: $15.00

Mike: This month we turn our attention away from puzzle games like Tetris, and towards a card game like Hearts. (Boy, we’ve chosen some really adrenaline-pumping, masculine games to review for our first two columns, huh? 🙂 Seriously, Hearts Deluxe by freeVerse Software is one of the best card games I’ve ever played on the Mac, and certainly the best adaptation of the game of Hearts that I’ve ever seen. (OK, one of the only adaptations of the game of Hearts that I’ve ever seen…) But seriously guys, this is one cool game.

Adam: Ok. I admit it. I am not a card player. I never have been, and I don’t ever plan to be (except for those UNO games with my cousins). So when Mike and I decided to review a card game for this months column, I was a little leery as to whether I could learn how to play it in time.

Mike: I had never been much of a Hearts player either. I had gotten a copy of Hearts Deluxe in a mailing from the Software of the Month Club a few months back, but hadn’t really bothered to play it much. I just couldn’t get into it like I could other games. (For more about my dealings with and thoughts about the SOTMC, check out this month’s Wall Writings!) I also didn’t really understand it that well and wasn’t very good at it. (No, I did not read the manual.) Then track season came around. Every year, a traditional way to pass the time on long bus rides, in between races, or during intermissions was to play cards. Every year, though, it seems that a different game happens to strike the fancy of the team. Although there was still a number of poker and blackjack contests around, by far the most popular game this season was, for whatever reason, Hearts. I started to get the hang of it, and ended up loving the game. So, after track got over, I decided to try out Hearts Deluxe one more time. It turned out what I had first thought was a well-done game that wasn’t really that much fun was really one of the most outstanding card games for the Mac around.

Vital Statistics

Mike: Hearts Deluxe checks in at 1.6 Megabytes, uncompressed. Its RAM requirements vary, depending on the color scheme you pick. The documentation says that it will run on as little as 700K of RAM, but it will require 1900K to play with 256 colors. I just set the memory preference in the Get Info box to 2 Megs and called it good. Hearts Deluxe also requires System 7.0 or later, and a 68020 processor or better.

Adam: When Mike sent me the game, I took a look at it and thought, “what the hell is Hearts?” I opened it up and was greeted by a very nice startup song. Then, I got playing and I thought, “I really need some help here.” So before mailing Mike and yelling at him, I tried the online help system, with its own personal tutor. I was amazed. I almost mastered the game without reading the manual. It was that good. When I did go to read the DOCMaker manual, I filled in many holes that had been left out of the help system. Now, think about it. If you get a game, let’s take solitaire for example, and already know how to play, great! But if you need to learn how to play a game, you need a good manual. I got more than I asked for here.

The Play’s The Thing

Adam: Now, since I didn’t know all the rules of the game, all I can tell you is that you can customize all the rules in many different variations. All I did was play the default rules. 🙂

Mike: For those of you who don’t know how the game is played (Adam!), the concept is kind of like golf — you want the lowest score of the four players. You each start with thirteen cards, and players lay one card at a time. The person with the highest card takes all four cards that have been laid, or takes the “trick.” You accumulate points by taking in hearts. You can also earn a lot of points by taking the Queen of Spades, which is worth thirteen points all by herself. So, in each hand there is a total of twenty-six points to be dealt out. And you want as few of them as possible.

If you get stuck with a lot of points, don’t despair. Taking the Jack of Diamonds subtracts ten from your score, and you can also lose five points by not taking any tricks at all in one hand. Also, these “special” cards and rules can easily be toggled on and off during the game, so if you want to you can simply play with only the hearts being worth points. Personally, I play with the Queen of Spades option on, and the Jack of Diamonds and “No Tricks” options off, since that was the way I learned how to play the game.

There are many other rules you can customize to your liking. Traditionally, the player with the Two of Clubs leads off the first trick, but this can be turned on or off, too. Normally, you are given the option to pass three of your cards to another player before the first trick, which is a nice feature in case you are stuck with a horrible hand, but you can decide whether that rule stays or goes, too. Other rules, such as not being able to lay a heart on the first trick, are also user-definable.

The game plays just like Hearts should, and with all of the customizable rule settings, it shouldn’t be a problem to play with the rules you’re used to. However, the game doesn’t stop with just optional rules settings. There are a zillion options to this game!

Bells and Whistle Galore

Adam: The best part of the game is the superb sound effects put into the game. Each player has different comments, and different movements to their comments. The sound is top-of-the line, and for a shareware game, this is superb. Also great is the customizable backgrounds. You can choose from 4 different backgrounds, or have the computer pick it for you.

Mike: For starters, you are given the option of what point total you are playing to before a winner is declared. I’m used to playing to 100, and so that’s what I do. But, if you’re in a hurry you can play to only 25 or 50, and if you’re in the mood for a marathon Hearts game, you can play all the way up to 1000 points!!! If you’re an expert player, or an extreme novice, you can give yourself a handicap, too, but no more fifty points either way.

If you’re still having trouble competing with the computer opponents after giving yourself a handicap, you can put the game in tutor mode to get some advice, or watch a demonstration game be played out and learn by watching. On the other hand, if you consistently are blowing the computer away with your phenomenal card-playing ability, you can set the AI to a higher difficulty level, although this option is only enabled in the registered version.

In addition to all those spiffy options, there are tons of bells and whistles in regard to the graphics and the sound. The graphics themselves are very well done. (OK, you can’t screw up a playing card graphic, can you?) Each player’s looks say something about their personality in the game, and they just seem to be begging you to lose your temper when you fall behind (or ahead, depending on which way you look at it). The playing table and background is simplistic yet artistic too. In the background there is a window, and one of the best features there is in regard to the graphics is that you can choose what you look at outside.

Music, there is none. Come on, folks, this is a card game! There is a catchy little tune that plays during the title screen when you start the game, though.

The sound effects really add a lot to the game, though. From the scolding “No, no, no” you get when you try to make an illegal play, to the sarcastic “well done” you are congratulated with when you make a bonehead mistake, the sound bytes can be both one of the most enjoyable and one of the most frustrating aspects of the game, at the same time. There’s just something about being made fun of by a computer…

But your opponents don’t just talk to you; they talk to themselves as well. When one of them acquires a large number of hearts, or takes the Queen of Spades in a trick, you are treated to shouts of “oh, rats!” and “I don’t want it!” When it seems like something fishy is going on, such as one of the players trying to “shoot the moon,” one of the players wonders aloud, “What’s happening?” (Shooting the moon is another neat rule — if you are “lucky” enough to win all 13 hearts and the Queen of Spades, you have successfully “shot the moon,” and get to subtract 26 points from your score instead of adding them).

As if hearing your opponents wasn’t enough, you can even read their minds with the telepathy option turned on. Sometimes what they’re thinking isn’t as profound as what they say (Examples are “I want snack food” and “Hi, like my head?”), but it’s still a very cool, fun feature.

All three characters have their own, very distinct voices. Plus, going back to the graphics for a second, they also have their very own “signature moves” and animations. All of this, combined with the way they look, really gives them that personality I mentioned. It really seems like you are playing against three different minds, instead of one computer. If you aren’t satisfied with the opponents that are provided (which have the monikers of Rob, Jen, and Zak), you can download others to be plugged in, and even create your own using ResEdit.

You can have the game show you the score, show you a variety of statistics about the game, and even replay the last trick that was played. If you’re getting bored with the game, you can make the computer finish the hand for you.

Finally, the programmers showed a bit of humor with an option called “Boss Coming…” This command will hide the game and bring up a progress bar instead, with some gibberish, techno-jargon text added in to make it look like your computer is hard at work. The text is often funny to read itself, and there’s a variety of phrases used. However, when it starts telling bad jokes, it’s time to return to the game, even if your boss is looking over your shoulder.

The Summary

Adam: From my brief experience with this game, I am nothing but pleased. It is one of the best games I have ever played on the Mac. And the keyword here is: it’s shareware! $15.00 is a small price to pay for a game of this content. freeVerse has done an amazing job with this game, one that can’t be matched by any other card game that I’ve ever seen, Shareware or Commercial.

Mike: There is so much to this game it has to be seen to be believed. I honestly could not believe that a simple card game could be so feature-rich and polished. It’s even harder to believe this is a shareware game, and like Adam said, it’s only a fifteen dollar one at that! There’s some $20 and $25 shareware games out there that are nowhere near the level of Hearts Deluxe. (That doesn’t mean you should raise the price in the next version, though, all you folks at freeVerse! At least wait until I’ve sent my check in…) Anyway, if you are a card game fan, and haven’t tried out Hearts Deluxe, you don’t know what you’re missing. It give it my highest recommendation possible.

Adam: I agree! This game is something that you just have to see to believe! A game of this content can’t be explained in one review. My only advice to anybody is to go download it! Even if you aren’t a card player, download it! I will probably never play the game again, as my love for cards is just not there. However, that is not to say that I didn’t enjoy playing this game. But if I do ever get into card games, I will know where to turn: Hearts Deluxe! I agree with Mike completely. Great card game!

Leave a Reply