You guys, I am hyped. HYPED. For a solid two-year span there was one game on the Nintendo 3DS where, no matter what other game I was deeply involved with, I still kept coming back to at least once or twice a week. When it first came out I was playing it almost every night in short sessions for months. I couldn’t stop.
It was an entry from Game Freak. That’s right, the Pokemon people; but, surprisingly, it had absolutely nothing to do with Pokemon. The game is Pocket Card Jockey.
To tell you how big of a fan I am of the game when Nintendo first announced they were closing the 3DS stores, my immediate first thought was, “Aww, now people won’t be able to experience Pocket Card Jockey.” I wish I was playing.
I almost broke something running to my 3DS to make sure I had it installed so I’d never lose it. I’m THAT kind of fan.
If you haven’t heard of the game, that’s perfectly understandable. Despite the game maintaining a solid 83 on Metacritic and having rave reviews, Nintendo put absolutely zero effort into advertising it, meaning Pocket Card Jockey was not visible to most. Even the Nintendo storefront did little to make you think there was anything here that made it stand apart from a regular solitaire game.
But there is, dear reader. My god, there’s so much more. Let me break the game down for you.
Your character right at the beginning dies and is reincarnated. That’s right, it’s an isekai. You’re reborn as an adult in a universe where you’re working at a stable of bizarre horse races. You raise your horse by having it train as you play a variation of golf solitaire. Your performance of getting it done in a certain amount of time affects the stats of your horse, allowing it to level up and gain better abilities. When the race time comes, you first play a quick solitaire game to establish how much of a good start you’ll get, and then during the race you play to keep your horse in the lead.
As your horse continues you can win or fail several championships which determines not only how much money you earn but what options you permanently buy which allows you to train better and do things of that sort. Eventually, at the end of one of the tournaments, your horse becomes too old to race and you send it to the stables while raising a brand new horse and starting over from the beginning, albeit with better training equipment.
As you send more horses to the stables you can pair them up with other horses and should they find romance in the field they’ll birth new horses with better abilities. And since this is Game Freak and not Game Normal Guys down the road you’ll end up with a stable of robot horses, demon horses, ninja horses, and the like.
The story is weird, the characters are bizarre, and the whole thing is a highly addictive pick-up-and-play fever dream.
It’s going to be a weird 20th for me. Because while I know my day is going to involve bringing a sleepy Gamestop employee a coffee while I pick up my copy of Fire Emblem Engage (and for real, Gamestop employees get NOTHING, give them treats man. They can’t take tips but nothing stops them from excepting Dunkin’. Just saying) I know I’m going to be a little slow on getting through the game because the horses will keep calling me back to my laptop.