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Purple Software Bridge for Psion Series 5


Apparently the most popular games software in the world is the version of Solitaire that ships with every copy of Windows; and no matter what the computer platform, a card game is always amongst the first products released, and among the first programs installed by the typical user. This is especially relevant for PDA users: any survey of popular software invariably includes at least one card game, usually some form of solitaire. Given that our chosen PDAs will always be with us in the quiet corners of boring trips, it is inevitable that we will turn to some games programs to entertain us. Bill Kirby's Klondike program for the PalmPilot has clocked up more hours than almost any other program, although for myself, I prefer Bridge. It has a greater fascination than simpler card games, and adapts well to solitaire play against a computer. I prefer Bridge to other traditional games like chess or go for amusement; largely because I stand a better chance of beating the computer opponent.

Purple Software's version of Bridge for the Psion Series 5 (49.95 GBP) has kept me well entertained for the past few weeks. I don't claim it to be the best Bridge program in existence, as I have certainly found my share of quirks, nor even the first Bridge program for the Series 5, but it works well enough that I am happy to continue to use it.

It offers a full selection of features to support different bidding conventions, selecting hands that have required features, saving hands, automated scoring and play, hints for both bidding and card play, and different views of the board. One quirk is that the default bidding system is the Standard American, rather than ACOL; I've been studying this system recently, so I tested it with Standard American. It also forces the use of a number of common conventions, including Stayman, Gerber and Blackwood.

I'm not sure how I got into this contract
I'm not sure how I got into this contract

Other conventions (weak 1 Club, for example) are selectable. Bidding seems quite good, given the conventions available; I've always thought that the American system was more inclined to produce artificial bids than ACOL, and this gave me the opportunity to test that theory.

Play of the hand seemed to be weaker; the game engine tried finessing at the right times, when we needed extra tricks, but lost more often than a good player should. It also isn't very good at getting the lead back into the right hand.

I replayed this hand my way
I replayed this hand my way

One good feature was the text view of the hand. A view is available that shows images of cards, like most other card programs, but I found the text view a better, more compact display of the entire hand that was easy to take in at a glance.

Taking back tricks and entire hands is supported, as are other forms of cheating, such as looking back at the play of the hand; having these features available is of course attractive, but I'd like to see a way of disabling all 'cheat' features while playing a serious game.

I should also mention P-Plus Bridge (http://www.breva.co.uk ), which has been available for the Series 5 for some time; I haven't played it, but it is reputed to have a good engine, and anyone who is interested in Bridge on the Series 5 should also look at this.

Psion produced the Series 5 with a good operating system, EPOC32, and with good hardware, the keyboard especially. But the key to success of any computing platform has always been the availability of software; and in this area Psion have done very well indeed. The Series 5 is second only to the PalmPilot (and their Series 3) for software availability, and a very few software companies (led by Purple Software and Palmtop) have been able to produce essential software products that have no equivalent on other platforms - Route Planner, Street Planner and Navigator, and now Bridge.

Words and design by:
Paul Lynch
Last updated: November 24, 1998

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