Reviewed: Pocket Card Jockey
When Game Freak decided to make a game about an aspiring jockey, they realized the one thing horse racing games have been missing all these years: solitaire.
In Pocket Card Jockey for the Nintendo 3DS, you play a young jockey whose first attempt to race a horse ends in a fatal accident. However, thanks to an angel who enjoys horse races, you’re given a second chance at life with a special power that lets you channel your solitaire skills into racing.
Horse racing and solitaire might not seem like the most obvious combination, but Pocket Card Jockey makes it work. In each leg of the race, you use the touchscreen to position your horse and gather energy, and then you play a round of golf solitaire (which means you only need to worry about the cards’ number values, not their colors). You want to clear as many cards as possible, because any remaining cards lower your horse’s mood. You also gain bonuses and can even gain experience by clearing cards.
While playing a good hand of solitaire is key to success, there are other things to keep in mind as well. Horses have stats that increase as they level up, and they can also learn special skills to aid you. Your position on the racetrack determines how much energy you collect, as well as how difficult your solitaire games are. Do you go for the highest possible amount of energy, even though it means a tougher game, or go for an easy game of solitaire and risk not having enough energy?
As your horse races, it also gets older. At first, you play in Growth mode, which lets your young horse level up and learn new skills. Once your horse passes the age of 3, however, it moves to Mature mode. Finally, once a horse is ready to retire, it moves to the Farm, where you can breed horses together to select their foals for Growth mode.
All of these things, along with a quirky cast of weird characters, make Pocket Card Jockey surprisingly addictive. It’s a difficult game to put down, and it’s easy to tell yourself you’re just going to play one more race.
With that said, it isn’t perfect. You can buy items to help you, but after your first few races, the prices increase so much, it’ll be a while before you can afford them again. A few mechanics, such as how you get your money from Mature mode to Growth mode (the mature horse needs to retire, and then you need to get a new horse with the same owner) are made less clear than they could be. And sometimes, you might lose a race and just not know what you did wrong.
But these are small flaws in what is overall an excellent game. Horse racing where your success depends on how well you play solitaire sounds like a pretty weird idea… but Pocket Card Jockey proves it’s the sort of weird idea that works perfectly. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a race to win.