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The title screen is nice and simple. There’s not too much in the way of design. The background is a dark blue with the lightning card design used as a background image. The colors, blue and several shades of purple work well together.
There are only two buttons, Play and Instructions. The one thing I would have liked to have seen on the title screen was what type of game Lightning is. It wasn’t clear that it was a card game until I read the instructions.
Speaking of instructions, clicking on the Instructions button opens a pop-over box with simple instructions. The object of the game is to use all your cards before the computer does. The instructions are straightforward and easy to understand.
Clicking Play takes the player to the game, which immediately starts.
The design of this screen is also nice and simple, with no clutter, and pulls the colors from the title screen. The layout is easy to understand.
The computer is at the top of the screen, and the player’s cards are at the bottom. On the top left are the player’s score and the time remaining in the level.
In the center of the screen is where the action happens.There are four discard piles, each with an arrow below that points up or down. If the arrow points up, you play a card that is one higher. Likewise, if the arrow points down, play a card that is one lower. The cards number from one to thirteen. The instructions also point out that if there’s a one on the discard pile and the arrow points down, you play a thirteen on it and vice-versa if there is a thirteen with an up arrow.
Gameplay is simple. Just drag a card from your hand to one of the four discard piles. Your hand is automatically refilled with another card from your remaining cards.
If the computer runs out of moves, the card to the left of the discard piles will flash the words “Flip Card,” which the player then clicks to refresh the discard piles. The player does not get to choose when to use this option. Only the computer can activate the Flip Card option. There were times I wished I could use it when I ran out of moves and had to wait for the computer to also run out of moves.
There are three special cards. A wild card, which can be played anywhere and allows for any number to be played on top of it; a lightning card with a lightning symbol adds a bonus to your score if played on another lightning card; and a red card, with a refresh symbol, that reverses the direction of the arrow. I tried to watch the score to see how much it changed when I played the lightning card, but it didn’t seem to add the same amount each time. The instructions don’t define the number of points received, and there’s nothing to tell me if the bonus amount is increased if a higher number is played.
I had to pay close attention to the discard piles. If a wild card was played, the computer was quick to play a card on it, so I would often drop a random card on a wild card, just to keep the computer from playing on it. That ended up hurting my score since I wasn’t paying as much attention to the card I was dropping on the pile until after I played it.
When the computer plays its last card first, you are presented with a screen that says “You Lose…,” followed by your score. The screen then refreshes, but instead of taking me back to the title screen, I had an error display. The error happened to me both in Firefox and Safari. The refresh button on the browser seemed to resolve the issue, and I was taken back to the title screen as expected.
If you win the level by playing your last card first, you instead see a screen that says “You Win…,” followed by your score and the next level starts automatically. It continues this way until you run out of levels or until you lose to the computer.
I like the simplicity of the game, but I also like that it is quite challenging. I was hard-pressed to keep the computer from beating me. One thing I would have liked was a Pause button while in the game. Although, I could see how it might be used as part of a strategy, so I can understand why the developer left it off.
Overall, a fun game, with a nice, simple design, and easy to understand instructions.