Beyond solitaire: Card games Deal: Bridge, poker and casino games have great graphics and offer play against the computer or human opponents.

May 04, 1998|By Lonnie Brown | Lonnie Brown,NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Computers have always been good at card games. Perhaps they have not always been the smartest opponents. But they've always had acceptable graphics, even in the early days - and amazing realistic graphics today.

So, today our future is in the cards - four card games.

"Klondike Pro" is the best treatment of solitaire that I've seen, offering duplicate solitaire against computer players. You play a game of solitaire trying for the highest possible score. Then, using the same cards dealt in the same order, about nine other computer players, with various skill levels, play the game. Six games make a match, and at the end of the match, you'll be awarded points for first-, second-or third-place finishes.

It's carried out in a gold-rush theme. The concept is unique, and it's possible to pit yourself against games played by other PTC human players, too. There's some luck involved in winning - picking an eight of diamonds instead of a eight of hearts to play on a black nine might take you down a low-scoring path. But programmer Brooke Boering says over the course of the match, the good player should rise to the top.

Lower levels are easy, but the computer players gain skills as the human player moves up the ladder. Don't expect flashy graphics. But this is the way computer games used to be put together when game play mattered more than graphics, sound and frames-per-second displays.

The game, for Windows 3.x only (it will run under Windows 95 with no problem) is free for downloading. It was last updated about three months ago. Download it from: www2.cruzio.com/vagabond. You'll need a program for unzipping the file, too.

As long as I'm recapping, I'll give a mention to one of the best poker-playing games I've seen over the years: "World Series of Poker Deluxe Casino Pak" (Windows, Macintosh; about $50) from Masque Publishing. In addition to a host of table games found in casinos, it contains several versions of poker - including a replica of the World Series of Poker held each year at Binion's Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas to determine the best Texas Hold 'em poker player in the world. For information,visit the Masque Web site (www.masque. com) or call (303) 290-9853.

Something new on the video-poker scene is "Caesars Palace VIP Series Video Poker Deluxe" (about $20; Windows) from Interplay Production. There are more than 100 video poker machines and variations on the CD-ROM (the game can be installed on a laptop for playing while traveling), ranging from joker's wild to 10s-or-better for payouts.

The casino effects - including background noise which can be turned off - are good. The payout odds are the same used at Caesars Palace. Face cards are animated, just as on the machines in Vegas.

The video offerings also include video games that play poker like table poker. The games were designed by poker expert David Sklansky, and although scheduled to appear in casinos, the games haven't made it there yet. They are, however, available on the poker deluxe disk. For more information: Internet, www.interplay.com; toll free 800-INTERPLAY.

Also from Interplay is "Bridge Deluxe II with Omar Sharif" (Windows 95; about $30). It offers bridge play for beginners to advanced with a multimedia tutorial by actor-bridge expert Omar Sharif.

One player can play against computer-controlled opponents, or up to four players can play over a network. About two dozen conventions allow players to customize game play. Several features allow players to examine their game, including a take-back review mode and a load-and-save feature that allows games to be replayed.

Pub Date: 5/04/98

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