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Ancient Enemy review: Somehow ‘fancy solitaire’ is one of my favorite games of 2020

Ancient Enemy review: Somehow ‘fancy solitaire’ is one of my favorite games of 2020

Solitaire. One of my favorite games of 2020 so far is solitaire. Here’s a card—now stack another on top of it. That’s it. Mindless, or maybe just mindless enough. Fwit, fwit, fwit, the sound of the cards stacking on top of each other as I go on a run, my combo meter climbing higher and higher. And then because this is fancy solitaire I unleash the combo as a bolt of lightning into the face of a strange skeleton-witch.

Then it’s onto the next level, and onto the next run, and oh god I can’t stop playing Ancient Enemy. Is this the next manifestation of my Globesweeper and Pictopix addiction? It certainly feels that way.

Solitary pursuits

Ancient Enemy is the latest from Grey Alien Games, developers of Regency Solitaire and Shadowhand. The former—which I did play—couched fancy solitaire card puzzles in a story of British courtly intrigue. Shadowhand—which I didn’t play—then introduced a battle mechanic. You’d play solitaire, and in doing so charge up attacks you could aim at your enemies.

Ancient Enemy IDG / Hayden Dingman

As I said, I didn’t play Shadowhand, but I get the feeling Ancient Enemy is just another iteration of these same ideas. It keeps the card battling system, maybe refines and streamlines it a bit. There are three suits—yellow, orange, and blue—and each charges a different attack. Yellow cards let you use your dagger for minimal damage. Orange cards power your magic attacks, which are usually more effective. Blue is used for defense.

Stringing together chains of cards builds a combo meter, which increases the efficacy of these actions. And then you have a few abilities you can use in a tight spot, i.e. to remove a card blocking your advance or change the number on a card to something more useful, and thus keep a combo going.

That’s it. Those are the basics, and even if you only played Regency Solitaire you’ll find much of it familiar. Most of the special abilities return for this third outing in some form. Hell, Ancient Enemy even uses the same sounds as Regency Solitaire when you play a card or unlock a gate.

Ancient Enemy IDG / Hayden Dingman

I can’t stop playing. I’ve made it through the entire map already, and now I’m tempted to go through again.

As I said, it’s just mindless enough—something to keep your hands and surface-brain occupied for an hour or two at a time. And that would be explanation enough for why Ancient Enemy works, just as it explained Regency Solitaire’s popularity.

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