One of my favorite game developers, Zachtronics, released their final game, Last Call BBS, a little while back. And in true Zachtronics fashion it fuses programming, retro futurism, and nostalgia to great effect, resulting in a fun, educational, and visually enticing game.

Last Call BBS is interesting because it’s a set of mini-games. The game boots up like a retro computer and you dial in to a bulletin board system (that’s the BBS) to download several games.

I’ve played about half of the games and they are pretty fun. In particular, a programming game about recreating 20th century food court food for people in the far future pushed all the right buttons for me.

But, in my opinion, one game stole the show. And it wasn’t even one of the mini games. It’s really a mini-mini game. Your Sawayama computer system does have one game pre-installed—Sawayama Solitaire.

A screenshot of Sawayama Solitaire in its beginning state. It looks like a retro OS desktop. The graphics are low resolution. The cards are dealt similar to Klondike but all of them are face up. The entire screenshot is slightly warped said that it looks like a CRT monitor.

It’s a variant of Klondike with a few rules changes:

  • The tableau is face-up but, like Klondike, only cards on top or cards in a sequence can be moved.
  • Any card (not just kings) can go into an open cell.
  • The deck can only be drawn through once. After all cards have been drawn, it does not reset.
  • After all the cards in the deck are gone, the spot where the deck sat becomes a free cell.

These changes have an exciting effect on the game. It suddenly becomes a lot more strategical than before. Since you can see all the cards, you can start thinking several moves ahead—and you are going to need to because you only get to go through the deck once. There is much less luck involved (but still a good amount). They claim that their variant of solitaire is often more winnable than Klondike and, anecdotally, I have found that to be true.

Aside from the rules, the execution of the game—the graphics, the sound effects, the music—is flawless. If you have childhood memories of playing solitaire on an old computer than you will appreciate the game design on this one.

I lost a bunch at first. But then I started winning. And then I became hooked. I would catch a few minutes of downtime during my day and want to play a few rounds, but I didn’t want to have to open Steam every time. I just wanted to be able to pop a browser tab open and play a little.

I’m no Zachtronics, but I’ve been slowly learning game development with PixiJS. So I set out to create a web-based variant of Sawayama Solitaire. I wasn’t trying to copy the retro vibe or anything else about the game other than the ruleset. I’m certainly not trying to take any business away from Zachtronics. I hope I bring more attention to their amazing game, if anything.

Some notes about my version of the game

This is the most interaction-heavy PixiJS game I’ve made so far. I’m sure I did a lot of things very badly code-wise. But it works. For the most part.

My version of the game look similar but not as cool.

Once I had a playable alpha version of the game I started passing it around to a few people. Immediately, the most prominent feedback was that I needed to make a bouncy card animation after winning a game. Multiple people told me that this was required in a solitaire game and I agreed.

I was going to embed a video here of the animation, but I think it would be more fun if I challenge you to win the game and unlock the animation yourself. That’s your reward.

I’m not going to win any awards here, but I’m proud of how this one came out. For what it’s worth, the source code is on GitHub. Feel free to use it for learning purposes, but probably don’t follow my example too closely because I’m very much a beginner at this.

The game is published on me and my brother’s little web game site. I decided I’m not going to put it on Itch because Zachtronics already has their solitare collection for sell there and I don’t want to cause any confusion.

Links and stuff