Malcolm Owen On August 24, 2006 at 1:18 pm

Recently, I’ve been looking at ways for my mother to get into gaming in a more involved way than she currently is. You know, the usual joining in if someone else insists, as part of a multiplayer effort, for "Just a minute or two". The problem is getting her into a game that she likes, which with many of the games on the market being explosion-fests or shooting whilst doing tricky jumps over lava, makes it difficult to find something she could and would want to play.
To my feeble stereotype-laden mind, the things ladies of a mature persuasion enjoy are card games, puzzles and anything with a minor gambling feel without actually risking anything, and there’s not much out there that fits that description.

Puzzle Poker is a card based puzzle game that uses the hands of poker, which means anyone that’s managed to see a televised World Series of Poker tournament will instantly understand what I am talking about. With 25 cards laid out into a 5×5 grid, players must move the cards (in a sliding manner only, no lifting cards off the table here) to form poker hands going in rows or columns against the clock. The higher the poker hand, the more chips you can get when you cash your cards. For people that do not have a clue what hand beats whatever hand, the hand order can be displayed to check their values, and your possible score for each row or column is updated every time you slide some cards, which means that over time players will gather what the best hands and strategies are. Heck, for those that don’t even look at the stats board during play, large bars hover over the card lines when there’s a scoring hand, the more red the better.
In the Casual and Advanced modes, you get a time bonus depending on how early you finish the hand, but it does allow an element of risk. Is it better to cash now and get a larger time bonus, or to persevere and get better hands on the table but get a lower bonus. In Unlimited mode, you do not have this question to think about, but it does give you a chance to try and get the highest possible poker hands in a more relaxed way.
In all modes, you have a target to reach in terms of chips that you must reach within a certain number of hands, earlier completion garners a large bonus as you would expect.

Obviously it’s a single player game, but there is an element of competitiveness from the Clubhouse feature (Puzzle Poker’s way of managing groups of people. Think of it like joining a clan. A very relaxed clan, with cushions and knitted jumpers…), where your scores are uploaded to a central scoreboard, allowing you to compare your highest hands against other people, be it worldwide or just against those in the Clubhouse you belong to. It does give you an incentive to play more, for me it’s because I don’t want to have a lower score than my own mother.

There are a few small problems though, such as the fact that I can only join 1 clubhouse (I may want multiple clubhouses, so my aforementioned mother doesn’t have to see that I’m playing against other people). Checking the web-based stats, I can see my own stats on the top 100 players page, the clubhouse page, but when I click on my own name, I end up on a page which is "tbd" (To be determined), which shows it as a work in progress but could be promising. It would be interesting to see what extra clubhouse features get added once there’s more people playing the game.

Generally, I find Puzzle Poker to be a highly addictive game that has managed to take away too much of my time for it to be healthy, and it has become possibly my mother’s favourite game at the moment. Partly because she’s as addicted to it as I am, partly because she doesn’t have to worry about headshots.


Addictive to the point of losing the sense of feeling in my legs.


Not hugely fantastical, but works well enough.


Music grates afte a while, but tuneful at first.


An indie game that deserves to be played, and a poker-based game that anyone can learn to play quickly.

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