On July 30, 2008, iLounge published iPhone Gems: Cards, Gambling + Arcade-Style Games, a feature article looking at seven assorted games developed for the iPhone OS. This review focuses on only one title from the collection; you can read the full article, with screenshots of all of the games together, through the link above.
Along with Solitaire and Poker, Blackjack is amongst the most popular card games around, though the simplicity of its gameplay demands that something—typically a gambling system—be added to keep the repeated “get your cards to add up to 21” exercise compelling. Unlike Griffin, which blew the chance to either make its poker game or the gambling interesting, MobileAge’s Blackjack 21 ($5) has found ways to spice up both parts of that equation. If you want to play the game without fussing around with settings, you can just do that—you’re given some gambling chips to bet in whatever quantity you prefer, you’re dealt two cards, and you use intuitive swipe gestures to stand, hit, double down, or surrender.
When you get bored with the table or the cards, you can replace them with new themes downloadable from MobileAge’s web site, a feature we really liked in the company’s earlier Mahjong game, as well, though there are far fewer replacements available here. And there are achievements, some dubious, that the game records for you, plus an online leaderboard to show you how you compare with the game’s true power players. All of this keeps what could otherwise be a simple game relatively interesting; the only thing missing here is in the audio department, which is music-free and otherwise as sonically boring as Griffin’s 5 Card Touch.
What’s really amazing are the game’s settings screens. You’re given an insane amount of control over the way the game behaves in terms of automating your play, as well as how the dealer plays, the rate at which a blackjack pays out, and whether features such as insurance and doubling down are turned on. Unlike Griffin, which took the least aggressive implementation of poker around and precluded you from making it more interesting, MobileAge includes one of the most aggressive blackjack gaming engines around and lets you tweak the settings to your heart’s content. Having commended the company for that, however, the underlying game here still could use some pizzazz and a structure beyond just racking up dollars—companies like Gameloft typically find a way to do this with titles, albeit with mixed results. Will MobileAge step Blackjack 21 up to the next level or leave it for a sequel? We’ll see; for now, this one rates a solid B.
Company and Price
Title: Blackjack 21
Compatible: iPod touch, iPhone, iPhone 3G