When Chef Solitaire USA first landed in my inbox I didn’t think much of it. Bear in mind that I am not a casual gamer, so, to me it was just another solitaire game. To its credit, the game’s polished trailer did pique my interest. The strange combination of food, solitaire and a suspiciously Gordon Ramsey-looking chap encouraged me to play a few hands, and am I ever glad that I did!
Chef Solitaire USA kicks off with the story of how you came to be working in a restaurant. With a failing book store weighing you down, you figured it was time to get out of the game and to follow your dreams of becoming a chef. After selling up you had enough money to open a restaurant in Mississippi – it’s not much, but it’s a start!
With the preamble out of the way, and the setting well and truly established, it’s then time to get down to the actual solitaire. Much like any other solitaire game, your goal is to collect the cards on the table. Cards can be either one card higher or lower than the card currently in your deck.
Playing off of the setting, the face cards are chefs instead of royalty. A nice touch! There are other neat culinary touches, each with their own effects on the game play. For example, each hand you play has four special cards adorned with chef’s hats, placed somewhere on the board. Collecting all four hat cards will instantly win you the game, wiping the remaining cards from the board . Hat cards add another level of strategy to the proceedings, and I really felt as though I had to think through every turn to maximize my chances of clearing the board and maximising my score.
More curiously, food items like bacon, eggs and grease can also be placed on top of your cards, prohibiting you from collecting them. To do so you’ll need to collect cards with items like tongs, spatulas and cleaning fluid, to bring the cards back into play. You don’t get strategy like this in Microsoft Solitaire!
As you progress through the game you will be awarded with cash and stars. Cash allows you to buy new gadgets for your kitchen, making the game a little easier. For example, there are items to reveal some of the cards on the board, making planning your next few moves a little easier.
Stars can be used to expand your food empire to new areas across the USA, and bring tougher challenges your way. Unexpectedly, the game rewards you with a, surprisingly high-quality, spoken diary excerpt each time you open up a new location. Chef Solitaire USA consistently surprised me with its attention to detail, and its ability to create fun scenarios based on its theme.
Special cards within your deck can also reveal cash bonuses or trigger mini games – although these can be skipped if you simply want to continue with the game proper.
Beneath Chef Solitaire USA‘s jolly veneer lays some very clever twists on the classic solitaire formula. It’s a surprisingly addictive time-waster, with more than a few interesting game play modifiers to keep things fresh. The culinary theme adds a surprising amount of extra depth to the game play, and in ways I hadn’t anticipated.
Chef Solitaire USA is a surprisingly tasty treat and comes highly recommended. Bon Appétit!
Chef Solitaire USA has an ongoing Greenlight campaign, head over and give it a thumbs up if you like what you’ve read!