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Pocket Card Jockey: Review

Pocket Card (1)

Hey guys this is TheAnvil here, with a review for Pocket Card Jockey for Nintendo 3DS!

Pocket Card Jockey for Nintendo 3DS is a downloadable title created by Game Freak, best known as the primary developers of the Pokemon games. Originally launching in japan in 2014 for both mobile and the 3DS, this strange mix of solitaire and horse racing has left many people curious for some time. Now that it’s here, is it a game worth betting your cards on? Only one way to find out.

You aren’t going to find any Xenoblade-esque masterpieces with this one, but Pocket Card Jockey manages to provide a lot of laughs along the way.

You start off as a Jockey, who is so bad at racing that you die… Upon your death you are brought back to life by an angel and it’s decided that playing Solitaire is just about the best way to be a racing champion. It makes sense if you don’t think about it too hard, or at all.

As absurd as the initial story is, you pretty much find yourself in the core game following this. From here on out your goal is to win races, as many as possible. Along the way you’ll find yourself interacting with more and more owners, (jockeys rarely own their horses, they race them on behalf of the owners) each with unique personalities and come brimming with clever and funny written dialogue. There’s even a fair amount of adult humour snuck in there.

Now, onto the gameplay…

Pocket Card Jockey is a crazy mixture of Solitaire and Horse Racing… But don’t be too put off if you’re not a card sharp, the Solitaire employed within the game is the most basic form of it; built for as much speed as possible. The game relies on that.

Initially you are bombarded with a whole bunch of different mechanics, and it can be quite off-putting when you’re in the heat of a race and you’re trying to remember all the steps. Although after a few races, you’re bound to have the bulk of it down.

Races essentially boil down to three different sections. The Solitaire, the positioning, and the Homestretch.

In Solitaire, your goal is to clear the tableau, or as much of it as possible, as quickly as possible. In other versions of Solitaire, you may be used to having to match cards to opposing suits, and even then, only being able to match to a value higher than your initial card. All of that is discarded in Pocket Card Jockey, and you are able to match cards to any suit, as well as matching cards of both higher and lower value.

If you get stuck, then there is a stockpile of 30 cards to help you complete your tableau.

While playing Solitaire, you’re given Unity Power which helps you with the positioning phase. In this section of the race you use your Unity Power to position your horse as closely as possible to its most comfortable zone by using the touch screen. Horses perform best when they’re in comfort zone 3 (which is narrower than zone 2 and so on). This is harder than it sounds, due to the unpredictability of other racers. Any unused Unity power from this stage in the race can be converted into more energy.

Finally, the homestretch. This is where the previous two factors come into play heavily. If you’ve performed well, the homestretch will be a sinch. But considering how heavily luck plays into the previous 2 phases, the homestretch can often be arduous.

There are some more factors that play into race performance, such as; special skills, age, mood, stamina, running style and more. The game explains all of this in detail but, as previously mentioned, it can seem very overwhelming initially.  

There are several core modes. In Growth Mode you take a young horse, and race it to adulthood. Along the way you are able to upgrade it with abilities by performing well in your races. Once it reaches maturity (4 years old), you are no longer to upgrade or level it up, and it then segways into Mature Mode. In Mature Mode, you can take this older horse, and race it to retirement. Once it retires, it goes to the farm.

One of the best things about this game stems from your ability to retire your horses (though not always an option), and to breed from them to get new horses to race. You can visit your horse at the farm, and this is where you are able to breed it if you have a male and a female to breed from. You can then take that foal and race it. It’s the circle of life, except no Lions. Just horses.

The slew of variables make races unpredictable. You think you’re doing well? See how well you can do after one of many things go unexpectedly wrong. And they will go wrong. Try hard, and try again. That’s where this game gets its longevity.

Pocket Card Jockey does a brilliant job at presenting itself. The characters are wonderfully distinct and memorable. There’s nothing quite like a sad horse owner approaching you following your loss, in tears, begging you win the next race. If you lose too many races, they’ll take your horse from you and find someone better to race it! Thankfully there’s a shop where you can buy items with the money you earn, that will help you out in future races if you need it.

The choice of music isn’t particularly memorable, but it fits the game perfectly. You’d get pretty standard ‘grand’ themes for the winning ceremonies, and you get faced paced action pieces for the heat of the race.
For people who aren’t well up in horsey lingo, the game helpfully defines words that you may be unfamiliar with as they come up. Though this can be a tad insulting to your intelligence at times. I’m not sure how many people wouldn’t know what a stable was.

Overall the game displayed in a solid package. Its menus are nicely laid out and make accessibility easy. There are often tips provided in between races to help maximise your potential, and after you lose a race, the game will explain what you can do to improve on the next one.

If you’re looking for a game that’s going to consume hours of your time, then Pocket Card Jockey is for you. I’m currently pushing over 15 hours now, and I can still hardly keep away. Its addictive nature will keep you saying “just one more race”.

Before I leave you today I want to give a big thank you to Nintendo UK for sending us a copy of this game to review. It was a great opportunity for us and we are really grateful for it and I hope we can continue this partnership into the future.

What do you think of Pocket Card Jockey? Let us know in the comments!

one comment
  1. I legit don’t care what anyone says, this game is amazing and I believe it’s all worth your time. Thanks for the positive review Anvil! (And there’s also a lot of pop-cultural references that people could get a good kick out of)