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Hoyle holds the trump card

But “Card Games” could use more online tricks.

Not all games need to be action-packed CPU hogs that wail away with intrusive noise and disturbing images of violence. Although the intent of computer games has grown uncontrollably into something beyond just entertainment, their original purpose was simply to pass the time, much like a good game of cards. Sadly, sitting around a table playing Tickets is almost a lost tradition. I rarely play cards, except when I want to pass the cold fall nights on hunting trips. No video game or computer can offer you the same camaraderie, but Sierra’s Hoyle Card Games can renew your interest in card playing.

Hoyle, the same people who make cards and card games, have packaged 16 classic card games onto one CD. You get the classics for the serious card player: Gin Rummy, Bridge, Poker, and Hearts. Other card games included are Solitaire, Cribbage, Spades, Euchre, Old Maid, Pinochle, Canasta, and Pitch. For your children (or just the kid in you) Card Games offers traditional games like Go Fish, War, Crazy Eights, and Memory Match. Each game comes with a full set of rules and helpful instructions. You can adjust the playing ability of the game’s built-in “opponents,” whom you can customize with the game’s Facemaker feature. After playing the game for a short while, I realized how much my own card skills had eroded. “Card Games” could be an excellent tool to help you bone up your card-playing acumen before any big game.

One of the best aspects of “Hoyle Card Games” is that it does not require much horsepower to run. In fact, for a Windows system, it only needs a Pentium 133, 16MB of RAM, a 4x CD-ROM drive, 60MB of hard-disk space, and a video card that can achieve 16-bit color. For the Mac, you will need at least a PowerPC processor, a 4x CD-ROM drive, System 7.5.3 or above, 32MB of RAM, and 100MB of hard-disk space. Because the demands of the game are minimal, you can install “Card Games” on just about any system without much problem. You do not need to configure any fancy 3D video settings or go to any other unnecessary bother. The game can also be played with or without the CD, which is a nice feature if you have a laptop with a removable CD-ROM drive, or if you are on the road and don’t want to drag CDs along. “Card Games” is also available for GameBoy Color, making it even more portable.

Another neat aspect about “Card Games” is that you can play alone or with others. If you want to use the multiplayer mode via the Internet, “Card Games” can accommodate you. But I should point out that Hoyle could have done a better job of incorporating the multiplayer option. For example, multiplayer over the Internet is not available for Macintosh platforms. Also, Internet play requires a game network plug-in rather than using technology native to the game itself. The plug-in, which is Web-based, does provide a decent spot in which to gather for multiplayer mode, but I would have preferred the option of playing peer-to-peer games, too. Even the ability to host games and have players connect directly to my machine would have improved my assessment of the game and its features.

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