Pocket Card Jockey (3DS)

JOCKEY_BOXGet ready for one of the weirdest game combos this year!  Pocket Card Jockey is a cross between a fast-paced Solitaire game and…horse racing?!?  Yup, and not only is it one of the weirdest games this year, it’s also one of the most addicting.  So much so that after I downloaded the free demo on the 3DS eShop, I forked over the seven bucks it costs for the whole game!  And I enjoyed it so much that I decided to review it, too!

So in the game, you play as a horse racing jockey, but you’re not very good at it.  In fact, on your very first race, you fall off the horse and get trampled by dozens of hooves.  Pretty dark way to start such a cutesy game, huh?  But an angel appears (who looks a lot like your horse trainer), and says they’ll bring you back to life and give you a special power that’ll make you good at horse racing.  You say you’re good at Solitaire, so the angel gives you the power to play it to help you win horse races!  And that’s the game’s backstory.  Right from the get-go you can tell that this game has a lot of Japanese quirkiness to it (horse racing is actually pretty popular in Japan).  But if you think about it, the game isn’t so weird if you consider there are lots of mobile games that combine Solitaire and another sport, like Fairway Solitaire (which is golf themed).  In fact, if Nintendo starts making more mobile games, I bet Pocket Card Jockey would be a good candidate for a port.

So anyway, after picking and naming your horse from different sponsors, you’ll enter them in races.  You’ll play quick, fast-paced rounds of Solitaire and if you do well, your horse will have more energy and be in a better mood.  Between rounds of cards, you can do things like position your horse on the track (handy if you want to save stamina on the turns), pick up cards that can help you level up and gain skills if you play them in the next round, and move your horse to win in the final stretch.  It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t, and the game explains everything in great detail as you play, so it’s easy to figure out.  Controls are easy to learn, too, as everything is touch screen and stylus based.  Between raced you can buy items and puzzle pieces from a shop with your earnings from winnings.  These items can give you an edge in the next race.

After racing, your horse will gain experience and level up, depending on if you picked up special cards.  They may even learn special skills that can help you out.  After racing when the horse is 2 and 3 years old, you can enter them in more races after that to help you earn more money.  But after 4 years you’ll need to retire your horse out in the farm.  But you can breed horses you’ve raced on the farm, and their offspring may produce even stronger horses that’ll help you win more!  There are other things you can do in the game besides that, but since this is a rather informal review, I’ll leave that for you to discover.

The game does have a few problems, though.  Mainly the slow progression and abundance of luck involved.  You could do well on your Solitaire games, only to lose to higher level horses or get in a bad position on the track that you can’t get out of.  Plus, it takes a while to breed and level up horses fast enough for the harder races, so you have to be patient.  When you start a race you’ll play a special round of Solitaire where you must clear out the best bottom card in a short amount of time, and if you blink, you’ll miss it.  Starting was the hardest thing for me in the game, but if you get a horse with a “Fast Start” skill, it’ll make things a lot easier. 

But even with those problems, the game is so addicting and fun that you probably won’t even mind them.  The game has that ‘just one more race’ aspect to it.  Plus, the graphics are really cute and it has that quirkiness in games that I just thrive on.  There doesn’t seem to be as many weird Japanese-y games like there used to be, so I was glad to see that this one ended up so fun.  There is a free demo of this on the Nintendo eShop that you can try if you like, and all your progress in the demo can be transferred into the main game if you decide to get it.  And I recommend that you do so!  It’s a fun little gem!

One more thing.  This game was developed by Game Freak, makers of Pokémon.  They slipped in a few funny Pokémon references in the game.  Like when you get a new trophy, text splashes on the screen that says, “Gotta Get ‘em All,” and some of the horse names are Pokémon moves and other references.  You know how race horses have funny names.  I’ve found Volt Tackle, Bullet Seed, and my favorite: Bulba Soarer.  Let me know in the comments section if you find any others!


Kid Factor:

Pocket Card Jockey is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Fantasy Violence and Comic Mischief.  While you do get trampled and die at the start of the game, the violence is still pretty cartoony.  Strong reading skill and number recognition is needed, as everything is text-based, and the fast-paced Solitaire gameplay requires quick number value responses.  Even though the game is about horse racing, there is no simulated gambling involved.  No betting, just horse racing!

One Response to “Pocket Card Jockey (3DS)”

  1. I want to try this.

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