It’s a scary sight… Omar Sharif’s moustachioed countenance staring at you from the middle of the virtual bridge table, whilst he slowly and menacingly forms the words “two clubs”. It’s enough to put you right off your four hearts doubled.
To be honest though, this is the only manner in which Omar graces this updated bridge program – there are no in-depth spoken tutorials or anything like that. There is a tutorial mode, but it merely consists of text-only comments on a selection of a hundred hands, complete with bidding and ideal play instructions, rather like the ones you get in the papers.
These are quite useful in that each illustrates a salient bridge tactic, although the way the program interface operates in this section is very clumsy and irritating. It’s also not much of a tutorial for beginners – only intermediate players need apply. It won’t explain the basics of the Acol bidding system, for example. True novices will be completely lost.
Aside from this tutorial, the main meat of the program is actually playing bridge against the computer, although there is also a multiplayer option. More on that in a moment. You can use three bidding systems with Omar Sharif Bridge – Acol, 5 Card Majors and Standard American – and hands can be set up randomly, or you can bias the deal so you’re more likely to get a good hand.
Sadly, the computer artificial intelligence isn’t brilliant. Bridge seems a stretch too far. Perhaps this particular AI should have stuck to Snap or Old Maid. Exaggerating to make a point we just might be, but really, some of the plays the computer comes up with are extremely odd, to put it kindly.
It really isn’t impressive and, what’s more, it obviously cheats in some respects to better itself. You never see it go for a finesse and fail, for example, as it unfairly uses its knowledge of where the cards are. An attempt at simulating human card playing habits with the AI wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Of course, you can always play multiplayer for some real competition – or can you? The short answer is no, not really. Unless you have friends with the game, searching for an Internet game of Omar Sharif Bridge proved fruitless on a number of occasions – there were no players or games out there. Starting a game and hoping people would hop in and join took us into negative apples (translation: it was even more fruitless).
And the last word has to go to the presentation, which is quite basic. For example, the audio samples from Omar are very crackly and poor quality. Visually it could have been jazzed up a bit too. We know it’s only a card game and graphics are hardly the point, but even so, a little more aesthetic lustre would have been welcome.
Company: Purple Software