To say that I was excited about this newest Apple Arcade release is an understatement to the highest degree. I go into these reviews with little to no knowledge of the game beforehand to avoid any bias or slanted view before the game is live. I then play as much of the game as I can in a short burst, then research as much as I can find on the title. This gives me first-hand experience and then the requisite background knowledge to feel fully educated on a title. This is important for a number of reasons, but one caveat of researching titles prior to their release, is that information can always change, and the design or gameplay can be greatly altered (positively or negatively) before and on the day of release.
When I first heard of Solitaire Stories, my mind raced with a multitude of adventures and differentiated types of Solitaire games. I bounced between games that would influence the story (completing a particular suit would save a small village or launch a counter-attack in a war against aliens), or that somehow, the story would influence the game board and the way I attacked a certain Solitaire deck.
This is in no way a poor reflection on the title put forth, but my expectations were limitless, and ultimately, the title delivered exactly what it said it would. This is a game of Solitaire; there are stories in this game. The premise is simple; play some Solitaire, and when you complete one game of Solitaire, play another. The starting games in each chapter are easier than the later games, but each follows a simple premise; hear some of the stories, play two games. Once finished, repeat four or five times to finish the story, and move on to the next chapter (if you have the requisite number of coins).
The stories themselves are quirky (the king and the office worker stand out as unique), but the story about the Maestro is a great narrative that should be experienced for not just the story, but the impeccable ambiance provides. The problem lies within the fact that they could have improved on Solitaire or gave us wacky games that further enhanced the stories, or even added some strategic games, or enforced rules that made it more challenging. They missed on all that and simply provided Solitaire; with stories. I guess there is little to complain about when the title clearly states Solitaire Stories, but with the precise controls, the stellar music, and wonderful art, I envisioned that this could have been so much more. This is a fantastic Solitaire game, with some stories that provide a structured narrative. Each and every story is well-crafted and definitely feels different as if each were created by separate teams.
However, I feel that this wasn’t a cohesive team-created Apple Arcade title. I feel like the stories were created first, and then another team came in and decided that they could attach those with a game of Solitaire, and this is the merging of those teams. With as much creativity as was expressed through these stories, more could have been done to the structure of the Solitaire games themselves.
There are three modes; Daily Challenges, which are quest-like in nature but are all centered around completing games of Solitaire, usually in the Quick Play format. There is a Daily Contest mode that gives you one game to reach the highest score. By earning coins from these modes, you can unlock future chapters, which therein lies my ultimate hope; I hope they find ways to incorporate new modes or even use this as a tool to teach about the different types of Solitaire games (Spider, Klondike, Tripeaks or Pyramid). With these missing from the collection seems like a missed opportunity that will hopefully be addressed if new stories are added in the future. Per the developer, each month, there will be new additions to the game (stories mainly), so the hope is that with these newer updates, more can be added to the experience. And this, at its core, is the best part of Solitaire Stories; there is an experience to be had that is exponentially better than the free Solitaire game that used to come with all Windows computers.