Best in Show

Best in Show
Best in Show Cover
Platforms Windows, OSX, Linux
Genre Dogitair

A few weeks ago I found myself addicted to a little iOS game called Turtle Fly. The idea is as simple as the title: you fly a turtle like you’re launching a rocket into space, avoiding obstacles until you run out of fuel or health. Sounds like a typical mobile game, right? Worth about five minutes of your time and then deleted? Well, toss in a shop and RPG elements and all of a sudden we have a real, solid game on our hands that will suck hours away at a time.

I’m not going to argue that adding RPG-like elements to every genre will make it better - would Tetris be improved with hit points? - but sometimes the right amount of stats and level-up progression injected into the right part of the game will give it the boost it so desperately needs.

The new indie title, Best in Show, is attempting to do just that, with solitaire. Here’s my preview of the soon to be released, canine-themed, solitaire card game with RPG elements.

I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed when I read that Graduate Games next title would be a card game, after playing the Incredible Machine-inspired Magic Toy Chest, I was expecting big things from the small dev team. When I took some time I look into Best in Show, I was surprised and intrigued about the RPG elements the game would feature. In practice, solo card games like solitaire don’t rely on an incredible amount of skill, so how would level progression and stat bonuses factor in? I had to find out.

In Best in Show, you start with a small team of dogs that are essentially your solitaire playing avatars. They each have four stats: loyalty, stamina, obedience, and fitness, that allow you to slightly influence the card game at hand. Items can be purchased at the shop that increases these stats, or you can buy more dogs to add to your pack, and thus more characters to use and level up.

The meat is in the actual solitaire game, this isn’t the traditional Klondike version that has been included in Windows since 1990, but a much more straightforward game where you simply build off the current card flipped off the deck. If you reveal a 5 (of anything, suit or color does not matter), you need to find an available 4 or 6, and from there you can start building a combo of cards plus-or-minus one from the current card. It’s simple, but enjoyable.

There are a few obstacles tossed in your way such as unique cards that won’t let you go past them until you clear a particular column. However, this is where the dogs also come into play, for example, the dachshund allows you to burrow under the fence card that would normally block other dogs. Each hand is also presented in different formations, and the table sometimes resembles a game of mahjong where that one card you need is buried way too deep.

Best in Show is broken up into stages with about 10 hands making up a stage, to actually complete the stage you need to complete a set of goals in one of those hands, such as beating a hand in under three minutes. I never had any difficulty completing the goals during my preview, but I imagine there are some decent challenges later on.

The game is appealing to look at, without any standoffish effects... it is a card game after all. The sound effects are rather prevalent, and the combo building sound reminds me of some kind of casino addiction, you just want it to ding higher and higher.

I will be devoting a first hour to Best in Show when it’s officially released, but my preview confirmed some of my earlier fears: that this is dog-themed card game. The RPG elements are pretty light and earning cash seems more to be about collecting that progressing, but I’m more than willing to give the game more time armed with the knowledge I have now.

Best in Show Solitaire