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Review: Durak has the potential to make you the fool in a good way

06-19-2009, 08:43 PM
Joined: Feb 2009
Location: San Francisco, California
Posts: 5,305
Review: Durak has the potential to make you the fool in a good way

Many of you know that I play a multitude of games, some better than others. There are games with heavy graphics, funky sounds and even peculiar storylines. But, sometimes, the most entertaining involve a simple deck of cards and a creative game behind it. A popular game throughout Eastern Europe and Russia, Durak is a game where the one with nothing left at the end is the winner or as I like to refer to it as “tossing your troubles onto someone else.” On the iPhone/iPod Touch platform, Durak is an easy to learn, but challenging game in a charming little package that should appeal to card and non-card players alike.

Translated, Durak means fool, and in this case, I’m a big one because I’ve lost a fair share of games. Of course, I’m a glutton for punishment…why else would I be writing game reviews. The objective of the game is to get rid of all your cards, and the last player with cards in the hand is the loser or the Durak.

Turn-based, Durak allows you to play up to 3 AI opponents with three levels of difficulty: easy, normal and hard. You may want to practice on easy before hitting the normal and hard Durak circuit. The game is designed to be as simple as possible to play with a clean, uncomplicated interface. For the cards themselves, an option is included where you can add your own picture on the back of the cards which is easy to accomplish and helps personalize the game a bit. A nicely done tutorial provides a walkthrough of the rules, and there is a “?” button at the bottom right corner that can be accessed at any time for hints and tips as well as going back to the Main Menu.

With a soundtrack that sounds like it’s from an old 70’s movie, Durak is a seemingly polished game. Multiple soundtracks with different themes to match different backgrounds may make sense for future updates to add some variety, but that’s really more of a suggestion and less of a criticism.

Also, a Win/Loss/Tie total is provided on the Home Page as a reminder of how good (or bad) you are. What Durak could use is an achievement system and more statistics to ensure replayability. I mentioned different backgrounds and those can be incorporated into the achievement system in the form of unlockables or even additional sound effects to provide more of a card playing atmosphere.

The controls are drag and drop, and you choose to play up to 3 AI opponents in Single Player mode. Also multiplayer over wifi is available with global multiplayer soon to be released in a future update. With card games, Durak does a great job to keep the game engaging without resorting to heavy graphics, and good card games in general shouldn’t have to resort to anything that could take away from the game.

For this review to make sense, here are the basic rules of Durak. Players get 6 cards at the beginning of each hand with new cards dealt until the deck runs out of cards. Under the deck is the trump card which is the trump suit for the game. Trump cards can beat any card except for higher trump cards.

To attack, drag any card from your hand. The opponent can defend with a higher card of the same suit or a trump card. You can play any attacking card that is in play, and if you run out of matching cards and can’t continue, you can drag cards into the graveyard where cards are no longer in play. Once that happens, you’re no longer on offense, and the opponent can now attack. Unlike when you’re attacking, if you can’t match any cards and can’t continue, you must take these cards as part your hand. For example, if you attack with a 9, and the opponent defends with King, you can either counterattack with another 9 or a King of a different suit.

Something to keep in mind is the Turnover, which you have the option of turning off in the Settings. Honestly, I like the added dynamic of the turnover, and you’ll see why when I explain how it works. Keep in mind, that with more opponents and with turnover turned off, the game becomes significantly more difficult at least for me. If you’re opponent is on the attack, you can drag a matching card next to the attacking card, which then forces the opponent to defend both cards, and thus a turnover. But, the opponent can do the same by throwing out another matching card. For example, if you place a 5 at the start, the opponent can choose to place a 5 as well thus forcing you to match both cards. If you can’t, then you lose control of the board and the upper hand of attacking. That’s is why a good strategy is to hold onto to trump cards and higher cards until the end of the game to ensure you have the stronger hand.

Throwing in occurs when an opponent is forced to take or after an attack and you can throw in additional cards. You can only throw in as many cards as the opponent has in hand. As I mentioned before, you don’t want to throw out too many good cards too early in the game because those are potential cards that the opponent can use against you later on.

During the game, you and your AI opponent will receive new cards so you’ll always have a minimum of 6 cards until the deck runs out. As the game progresses, attacks and counterattacks resulting in a turnover are clearly labeled and you’ll find can stretch for more than two cards, usually making the difference in who wins the game.

If you enjoy card games or simply want to try something simple to learn, yet entertaining, Durak is a good game to consider. It definitely takes practice, and after a while, the game becomes second nature. Elegant in its simplicity and offering a good pick-up-and-play approach, Durak is a solid alternative for when you’re in the mood for something that doesn’t require shooting an alien or creating loud explosions.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommended for card gamers as well as novices who want a game that’s easy to pick up and play)

Last edited by Big Albie; 06-19-2009 at 09:01 PM.