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21: Blackjack - DSiWare Review

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21: Blackjack

DSiWare | Digital Leisure | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 200 Nintendo Points
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23rd November 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

As popular as Blackjack may be, that in itself doesn't necessarily mean it's worthy of a standalone release. Either way, Digital Leisure released 21: Blackjack last week, adding yet another card game to the DSiWare service. As soon as I heard more about this title, I knew it wouldn't be able to compete with 5-in-1 Solitaire in terms of value. But the real question I had to discover was whether or not it could still be seen as a good buy. And it's somewhat surprising for me to see that the answer to that question is not a positive one.

    Even if you're new to the whole concept of Blackjack, you should have little trouble understanding how to play. Basically, you and the dealer are competing with each other to get closest to a sum of 21 using cards from the deck. If you manage to get exactly 21, you'll instantly win the game; if you go over, you'll forfeit the game by what's called a "Bust". You'll start off by using poker chips to place bets on what you think your outcome will be at the conclusion of a round. If you're not feeling too confident or low on funds, it's probably best to play a low bet to avoid losing a lot, but these are the sorts of decisions you'll need to make.

    The game starts you off with a generous amount of $1000 in poker chips, but once these have been expired, it's up to you to make back what you lost. Once you've put down a bet, you'll be given a pair of cards from the top of the deck. From there, depending on what cards you're given, different actions can be performed to advance the flow of the game. Here are just a few examples. Selecting the "Hit" option, for example, will add another card to your hand, while "Stand" will lock in whatever cards you have as you watch the CPU play out whatever remaining turns he has. When your first two cards are of the same value, the "Split" option will divide your cards into two different hands, allowing a second opportunity to make some more cash. Although there are additional choices that can be made, this is what nearly all aspects of the game boil down to.

    By accessing the Help function, you can view the game's manual, and perhaps you may find this to be a big help. I say this because there's a specific section devoted to hints and tips, and many of them are actually really handy. It's just a shame that these weren't implemented into gameplay somehow. From the Options Menu, one can access a variety of settings that can affect how a game plays out. For example, you can increase the payout ratio from 2:1 to 6:5, or enable a warning message when performing a "Hit" when a sum of 18 or higher is present. There are 10 different settings that you can play with to tailor the experience to your play style. 

    When you manage to win a round, there's only a small level of excitement to be had. Although the game is really luck-based, there is some strategy involved in knowing how to play your cards right. But that still doesn't make winning against the dealer fulfilling, even in the slightest. Your progress in the game is measured by the amount of money you have, in addition to supplementary records of your best stats. Once you go Bankrupt though, all of these "accomplishments" will reset, essentially serving as a small push to exercise more caution from that point onwards. Unfortunately, neither of these elements instill a sense of willpower or motivation within the player.

    With meaningless goals to aim for, 21: Blackjack quickly becomes incredibly dry. After just a few plays, you'll come to realize the thin foundation of purpose this title tried to build upon. In real life, when pressure is applied to any sort of thin material, it can easily snap. In 21: Blackjack, as the weight of doubt and dissatisfaction builds, the thin structure breaks apart, and the alleged "value" of this entire release comes under serious question. It may not happen right away, but it is inevitable.

As you can imagine, the bland presentation doesn't help with these sentiments one bit. Everything from the colour palette to the appearance of the card table is low quality. The ability to change the colour of the tablecloth and the card deck patterns are nice to have, but they do practically nothing for the game (or even the player for that matter). At least you have the ability to choose from a small sample of background music, but I only find myself drawn to one of them (i.e., the Sax theme). The others ranged from being too mediocre, to just plain annoying. The apparent lack of care towards this aspect of the game goes hand-in-hand with what I was just talking about. In both cases, you can see that 21: Blackjack is just too rudimentary for its own good.

    Yes it's true that Blackjack is undeniably popular, but even for a $2 release, Digital Leisure's attempt at the card game is less than satisfactory. Before long, you'll find yourself shafting this to your SD Card or deleting this off your DSi. With meaningless achievements and a weak structure that fails to keep gamers playing, 21: Blackjack's minute level of purpose quickly becomes apparent. Even if Blackjack happens to be your favourite card game, it's best to stay away. If you really want to play the game, set your sights towards one of the more meaningful card game collections already available instead. You can easily do without this.

14/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 7/10 - Standard rules are enforced, diehard fans will not find many surprises, kind of silly that all stats are erased when you get Bankrupt
Presentation 4/10 - Very bland presentation, really basic table colours and card deck patterns, an apparent lack of care shown towards this aspect
Enjoyment 2/5 - If you're a fan of Blackjack, you might find it fun for a very short while, quickly becomes dry with nothing worthwhile to strive for
Extra Content 1/5 - Stats that mean nothing in the long run, feels very light even for $2, more value to be acquired from a card game collection

Equivalent to a score of 47% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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