Gonzo for Mondo

In order to get the bottom line readers on their way, Jenny Manytoes would recommend Mondo Solitaire because:

  • You don’t have to earn stuff to play
  • The game has so many versions and variations you can play until the world ends without repeating yourself
  • The game is beautiful
  • The game is incredibly stable, and
  • It’s okay to cheat
  • Let me repeat: It’s okay to cheat

There aren’t many bugs, but I do mention a couple if you’re interested.

In addition, I announce the advent of iPad Envy fun day, discuss the benefits of using good grammar when naming games and discuss the ethics of cheating (as if there were really any question).

Instant update: Ironically Ambrosia software posted the free upgrade that’s supposed to fix one of the problems mentioned below at the same time as I was posting this blog. I posted one update earlier and then discovered a lot more changes, almost all of them addressing issues in this blog. Therefore, I removed that update and replaced it with this one, which announces I will follow this blog with “Mondo Redux” on Monday to address all of those changes. That doesn’t mean you should skip this blog and read Monday’s. You will still need the information in this blog if you want to survive your Mondo gaming experience.

The name’s an enigma, but the game’s sure fun

It’s Friday, and I’ve decided that Fridays should be fun day. At least until I think of something better to do with Fridays. And what is “fun day?” I dedicate fun day to the review of a game, hopefully a game you’ll want to play.

This doesn’t mean I will only review games on fun days, but you can look for a new game every Friday until I get bored with fun days.

Today’s fun day game is Mondo Solitaire for iPad and I can tell you right now Jenny Manytoes makes biscuits just about every time I pull it out. She does get her tail in a bunch when she realizes she can’t play too, but that quickly passes.

Before I sing the game’s praises, I have to admit I just can’t figure out the name. What the hell is “Mondo” solitaire? I looked ‘mondo” up in Webster’s online and found out that mondo is either an adverb meaning “extremely” or an adjective meaning “really, really big.” One source said it was an adjective that means “extremely” but adjectives can’t end with “ly” so it was either a typo or a source I will never again refer to for proper English usage.

Neither version really makes sense.

First, “extremely solitaire” is superfluous, kind of like “absolutely perfect.” When you’re playing solitaire you’re playing by yourself. You can’t play more by yourself than by yourself, so “extremely solitaire” would just be another way of saying “solitaire.”

I might accept the definition “really really big” for Mondo Solitaire except the game originated on the iPhone, which is pretty small. This would mean, if we stick by truth in advertising games, that Mondo Solitaire is actually “Really, Really Small Solitaire.” A more accurate name would be “Petite Solitaire,” or “Diminutive Solitaire.” I think they need to rethink the game’s name.

Once the developers rename the game to something more grammatically appropriate, say, “Extreme Solitaire” or “Xtremely Awesome Solitaire” (because you can have degrees of awesomeness), I think you’ll find it’s pretty good.

You don’t have to earn stuff to play

When you play Mondo Solitaire you play every level with the same advantages. Mainly because Mondo Solitaire came up with a brilliant twist on computer gaming. It doesn’t have levels. That’s right, you don’t have to earn magic beans, or bakeries, or pea pods that double as gatling guns in order to finish a level. There’s no store where you have to decide which item would be the best item on which blow your hard-earned money. This also means you don’t get stuck forking over five thousand dollars for plants that give extra sunlight or machine gun adapters that turn out to be far too expensive to use once you own them.

You start out with a deck of cards and if you lose, you get the same deck of cards the next time. How simple is that?

The app has a gazillion different solitaire games

Or a half-gazillion. It doesn’t matter; there are too many games to count. It has almost every version of Solitaire I ever heard of except Boston. Since I never really liked Boston, that still leaves plenty of options.

Okay, maybe it doesn’t have everything. You can compare the list to a game like Mike’s Cards on the Mac and find both have games the others lack. But Mondo still delivers a lot of games for a very low price.

Mondo Solitaire has all the standards: Klondike, Canfield, Spider, and Spiderette along with less popular alternatives such as Free Cell and Flower Garden. Sometimes the game is a less satisfying alternative to the real game (Belvedere resembles La Belle Lucie but it isn’t quite the same). If you get bored playing one game, switch to another.

The gazillion different games have bazillions of options

If that weren’t enough, each variation has a subset of variations. You can play with two suits, four suits in four different colors as well as five and six suits. Mondo Solitaire sorts the games several different ways so you can look for games you play often, easy games, difficult games and games with two, three and four decks. It’s like shopping at a Costco, only once you pay your membership, everything’s free.

It doesn’t matter how you cut it, you have a lot of options each time you start a new game.

Mondo Solitaire has lots of games, game options and methods for finding games.

Or you clan play Klondike over and over and over again.

An elegant interface

Hard core players may not care about the interface, but Mondo Solitaire is one of the most beautifully designed games I’ve seen. I downloaded it the day Apple released the iPad and I was blown away by the design. In the two months since I’ve looked at a lot of games and this one still takes the lead for beauty and simplicity.

Most important, Mondo Solitaire is one of a handful of games whose developers remembered you’re supposed to be able to use the app in full rotation. Turn the screen, and the elements shuffle to fit the new orientation. Half the games can only be played in one rotation. It’s like they think the iPad is a Wii or a PC.

To be honest, when I first downloaded the game I spent a couple of hours rotating the screen to see the elements shuffle to accommodate the orientation. It was beautiful. After an hour I began to wonder if I wasn’t developing OCD or was showing long dormant signs of Asperger’s Syndrome. That didn’t stop me. I kept turning and watching until the repetitive motion rocked me gently to sleep.

Mondo Solitaire can be played with the screen at any angle

Super, super stable

This has to be the most stable game I’ve played on the iPad. It hasn’t crashed once. Two other personal favorites, Farm Frenzy 2 and Amazon Hidden Expedition crash on every other level. Not Mondo Solitaire.

Rarely, and I mean every so rarely, when you start a new game you’ll see a blank table. Don’t worry. Just close the game and when you open the window the cards will be in place. This happens most often when I browse for a different game and then return to the game I had been playing.

So many ways to cheat

Playing Mondo Solitaire is a dream for players who believe rules are little more than guidelines, and those only to be followed when someone watches over your shoulder. I don’t know anyone like that personally, but I can share from the testimony of people close to me that if you can do it with a real deck of cards, you can do it with Mondo Solitaire and even a trick or two more.

Swipe to the right and you undo your last move. Continue to swipe and you can undo to the beginning of the game (at that point, it’s probably easier to restart the game entirely). Swipe down from the top and you can see the hidden cards. The game also features an additional undocumented move: Swipe from the top several times in succession and every card remains exposed. This takes practice to master, or so I’m told, but it’s quite effective.

At any point you can ask the game to move all playable cards to the foundations, which is great for someone easily bored with clicking and dragging cards.

There is one small catch to the cheating, which I’ll mention later, but cheating and restart options are so effective you can go hundreds of games with some variations (say Yukon) without a single real loss. I stress the word “real” because there is a small glitch with the scoring system.

Mondo Solitaire sounds nearly perfect, and, in most respects it is. However, I have noticed a few flaws that I feel merit mentioning (and not because reviews should always say something “negative”).

No games for cats

You would think that with all those variations of Solitaire, Mondo could find even one that cats could play when I need to distract them. Bless her heart, Jenny Manytoes tries but her paw slides ineffectually across the screen protector.

I actually contacted technical support to demand an explanation and this was the best lame excuse they could give me: “We are sorry to report that something about the Apple APIs makes it difficult to detect the random placement of cats’ paws on the touch screen. Believe it or not, only human fingers can apply the pressure required for the touch screen to respond.”

Who are they kidding? I’ve seen that video where the cat plays that funny spiral piano on the iPad. Talk about pressure. Any cat would be under pressure to play a funny spiral iPad piano when some busybody’s videotaping them for international distribution. I’m sorry, but there’s no excuse for this lazy attitude toward game and touch screen interface development.

Fortunately Jenny has decided lately that it’s my job to play solitaire and her job to sit on my shoulder and make biscuits. So the Mondo developers are off the hook.

The scorekeeper is a snob

Remember the section about cheating in Mondo Solitaire? You can, but not with impunity. The developer must have channeled his grandmother into the score keeper because it keeps track of the games you won honestly as well as the games you just won.

Personally, I have no problem with this. It’s just the scorekeeper’s attitude when announcing your win-loss record. It will tell you how many wins you have and how many of those are “tainted.” Tainted? How can a win be tainted if the game gives you the option to cheat. There’s nothing tainted about taking advantage of the rules. Just ask the 1908 Chicago Cubs. Regardless, it’s almost as though the game feels compelled to both keep score and snitch.

Personally, I laugh at the “tainted” comments, but others don’t. It seems to let them feel better about themselves for being total failures. For instance, when Carol and I compare our records (between our iPhone versions and iPads the gap is about three thousand to fifteen) Carol huffs and reminds me none of her wins are tainted. It doesn’t matter that I actually have more than a thousand untainted wins, none of them count because of the ones that are.

The score keeper could work work on her math too

If there’s one thing I’m proud of, it’s my (tainted) record at Yukon. I don’t know how I figured it out, but something about the card distribution makes it a guaranteed winner if:

  • You play in chromatic mode (different colors for each deck) and
  • You cheat. I mean, use every cheating option including multiple restarts

I’m not going to enter into a discussion on the ethics of cheating because I want to point out a programming flaw.

But now that I mention it, why not discuss the ethics of cheating? Who am I really cheating when I cheat at solitaire? Am I cheating the game developers? No, they gave me the option to cheat, and I paid them good money for the option to do so.

Am I cheating other solitaire players? Of course not. Solitaire isn’t a competition.

Am I cheating myself? How can I cheat myself when I choose the rules I play with? It’s not like I’m deluding myself; I know damn well I cheated. In fact, I bet I learned more strategies cheating than I would have learned not cheating.

Am I cheating whoever made up the rules for solitaire? No, they’re long dead and if they made it to heaven, they’re too happy to care (and if they didn’t, their problems are far more serious).

Is it cheating at all? Can it even possibly be called cheating if cheating is legal? No, it’s a game, and you can change the rules of any game at any time to suit your needs. There is no stone tablet with the ten commandments of solitaire.

The fact that rules can change is the reason why football constantly changes the instant replay rules and the rules protecting the quarterback. That’s why the Supreme Court gets not-so-instant replay. That’s why baseball could change the rule about a runner having to touch second base on a base hit that will win the game and they probably would if someone didn’t still have it in for poor Fred Merkle.

My point is, it takes ingenuity to find legitimate ways to cheat in order to win every game in Yukon (in chromatic mode). But after seventy or eighty games, the score keeper decides it isn’t fair to go undefeated and just starts adding arbitrary losses to my win-loss record.

I used to think it’s because I accidentally started a new game instead of restarting a losing game. I asked the developers to add a warning that says, “are you sure you want to change games? You will lose this one.” So far that hasn’t happened.

But then, after resetting the game to zero (which meant deleting it from my iPad and re-syncing all my apps), I played eighty straight wins. I was on a roll again until one day I simply put my iPad down to go to the bathroom and when I came back I had three losses added to my record. That’s right, three losses while I was in the bathroom.

I thought I was mistaken but on my eighty-fifth win my record jumped from 84-3 to 85-4. In other words, the score keeper decided I won and lost that game.

I’ve reported this to the developers and they say they’ll take it under advisement.

I’m sure most readers will never really be this anal about their Mondo Solitaire record, but I worked hard to eke out wins by cheating. And by my accounting I’ve won more than 1000 consecutive games of chromatic Yukon. That’s something to be proud of.* But, no, the scorekeeper says otherwise. So, I’m sad to finally throw in the towel and admit that I’ll never have a screen shot to print and display on my mantle that says: “1000 wins, 0 losses, 767 tainted wins.”

Post update: The upgrade posted while I was posting this review also has a new feature that allows you to turn the tainted wins statistic off. Grandma’s still there, but at least you ca. Tell her to shut up. And it also lets you reset the statistics, which is a small comfort when the game adds a spurious loss. Now you can have fewer wins, but still remain undefeated.

In addition it lets you turn cheating off, which has to be the most pointless feature I can imagine. If you don’t want to cheat, don’t cheat. If you need a software switch to keep you honest then you’re missing the point of honesty. Honesty is something you do on your own. If you’re honest only under duress then, deep down, you aren’t really honest.

You’ll miss lots of deadlines

Remember how I told you I have more than three thousand wins?

As an example, I was trying to get this in for today’s blog, but first I needed to spend time researching the app. I had to play a dozen or so games of Spider to check the program’s stability with two deck games, and then I needed to play a couple of dozen games of Canfield to make sure the interface stayed consistent from game to game. From there I jumped over to Klondike to see how Mondo’s implementation compared to other solitaire games. After three dozen or so hands, I was satisfied. Then back to Yukon to see if I could at least win one hundred games without it adding in a bogus loss (I made it to 83 and then, suddenly, I was 84-1) and then I had to replay another dozen hands to duplicate the results and….

Suddenly I realized it was this morning and Carol was giving me the look she gave me after I stayed up all night playing Plants v Zombies. You know the look. It was the “do we have to do another gaming intervention?” look. I managed to persuade her I was just researching the app to verify my findings, but she was dubious.

I should be grateful I didn’t play straight through to Saturday.

Jenny rates Mondo Solitaire

Jenny Manytoes and I pretty much agree about Mondo Solitaire. In spite of its few flaws, she would make biscuits on the game any time she’s near it.

*Carol isn’t quite so sure of this claim. To the contrary, she thinks I should be ashamed to admit I pissed away the opportunity to do something worthwhile in order to even play a thousand games. I try to remind her, politely, that she’s Episcopalian, not a Calvinist or a Puritan. That didn’t carry much weight. “Here,” she said. “Hold the cat while I give it medicine. And keep your fingers out of its mouth.”

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 5 Stars + Best Buy, Games, iPad, Solitaire Games and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Gonzo for Mondo

  1. H says:

    Bought this app on your review that stated it had La Belle Lucie. It does not.

    • Sorry, I can’t explain the oversight. I try to double check claims like this.

      Their version of La Belle Lucie is called Belvedere and it isn’t an exact copy, but you may find it to be close enough.

      This really was an inexcusable oversight on my part, especially since La Belle Lucie, like Queens of Italy, is fairly unique and has a lot of loyal fans.

      Still, Mondo Solitaire remains a pretty good game.

      If belvedere doesn’t work for you, you can contact the developer through the app store and ask them why they have a La Belle Lucie knock off that isn’t quite as satisfactory, but not the real deal.

    • Wiz Solitaire has La Belle Lucie. It only costs a dollar and the interface isn’t nearly as enjoyable (in fact it’s kind of clunky), but it seems to play reasonably well.

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