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iPhone Game Review: Thirty One

Posted by: Tina at 2/14/2010 2:16 PM
Something about card games, digital or not, has always been appealing. Variations have existed for quite some time, and new ones will probably always be invented, with current favorites even being posited as a fun alternative to a moneymaking scheme. Certain card games require intense thought processes, while others are more casual in nature. Read on to find out how Thirty One, a card game on the iPhone, handles on both ingenuity and practicality as an iPhone game.



The rules of this card game are fairly simple to pick up on. The goal is to hit a hand totaling 31, with three cards at your disposal. Most cards are taken at value, but a 10 or face card is valued at 10 and aces are high (counts for 11). In order to add cards’ values together, they’ll have to be of a matching suit.

With three players at the table starting with three chips each, you rotate turns with the deck. You have the choice of staying with your hand (aka knocking), exchanging a card for the discard, or choosing to take your chances with the card in the deck stack. Once you tap either card, you cannot go back on your decision. Knocking will allow each opponent one extra turn before turning your hands over for evaluation time. You’ll have to weigh your chances and sometimes take risks, as in any good card game.

The game mechanics itself are quite solid and fun. While attempting to guess your opponent’s hand from the discard they might have contributed to, you’ll have to make choices for reaching the goal of 31 and when to knock to catch an opponent off guard. If you do happen to hit 31, you’ll get a blitz and automatically end the round. The challenge and strategy is definitely there for the taking. With three chips and playing off honor, you get 4 rounds per game in which to swindle Jack or Jill (the generic opponent characters).

Winning a game gains you credits, which in all honesty are fairly useless in this game. If there was an option for online multiplayer – which there most certainly should have been – credits might seem like a more useful currency. The only option for online competition is the leaderboards, which require an account with Open Feint. Although Thirty One is a good and even addicting card game, the repetition against Jack and Jill can quickly become monotonous. Transgressing between rounds, and then games becomes a matter of just passing minutes. This does, however, make for the perfect quick play between walks or waits. Exiting the game won’t lose your progress either; the game will welcome you back to play with the exact hand you left with.

It’s games like this one that remind me that Apple should create some sort of gamertag equivalent to make this process and all other online ones more universal. Thirty One even grants you achievements, further making the need for a gamertag. As iPhone game developers are embracing multiplayer options more and more, a universal gamertag system will become even more necessary and useful. Leaderboards were fun to tackle in the days of your three recognizable initials at your local arcade. With such expansive possibilities of multiplayer games, particularly on the iPhone, the stimulus of a leaderboard is negligible.

Before I digress too much from the topic of the quality of Thirty One, I will say that the gameplay is solid but the options are limited. Multiplayer should be an integral part of the gameplay, being that card games rely on other players to begin with. I can understand not forcing multiplayer on a game that works predominantly as a single player one, but Thirty One has no excuse for no multiplayer. AI can only be fun for so long.

In other regards, the graphics are simple and far from flashy. There are a few cool features such as integrating music while playing, but this game should be taken at face value. You won’t find any Louisiana charm to commemorate the card game’s homeland, just green felt and poker chips. It may not blow your mind away with flashy graphics and funky themed music, but the game itself is an entertaining card game.

Thirty One: $0.99
Gaming Nexus Grade: A-