What does Pokémon developer Game Freak like doing when it’s not busy coming with ideas for new creatures for new Pokémon titles? Well, apparently it involves trying to come up with unique ideas such as the title, Pocket Card Jockey.
Those looking for a traditional horse racing title should try the titles developed by Koei Tecmo. Remember spending many hours playing the card game Solitaire on a PC? If the answer is yes, then this is the title for you. In this title players take part in competitive horse races by completing Solitaire sessions.
As the typical rookie, players have the chance to make it all the way to the legendary Derby horse racing event where the top racers compete every year in June for the ultimate title. But in order to even start taking part in races, a worthy horse and trainer are required. The horse must then be trained by competing in races to ensure that it’s ready to face the many challenges ahead.
Although the title doesn’t take itself too seriously – players are regularly being coached by an angel that resurrected the character – it still prides itself in bombarding players with information. In fact, the amount of dialogue found in this title almost makes it seem like a typical role-playing game. Regardless, it does so in such a jolly manner that makes it interesting to keep reading and enjoy the many jokes inserted in the dialogue.
The amount of terminology casually thrown about is staggering and mostly forgettable. Fortunately it’s not essential to remember most of it to effectively participate in the races. What is important is to remember that there are different phases to get through and each of them usually involves completing a Solitaire session. Perhaps one of the most important phases is the beginning where quickly completing Solitaire sessions under pressure from a time limit, will result in getting a head start and so a higher chance of winning.
The other phases in the race consist of clearing the Solitaire sessions to gain power that players can convert in energy to make horses faster. Completing the Solitaire sessions without making any mistakes, such as picking the wrong cards, will also improve the mood of the horse. A happier horse will result in peak performance. All of this builds up to the final stretch where stamina power is used to try and get to the lead or even just ensure that the horse stays at the front.
Now the beauty of it is that the more races that are completed the better the horse gets. Not only that, but horses will also get better with age. But the real accomplishment is that the title is simple enough for anyone to play it without having to learn every game mechanic. Yet the information is still there for those who wish to take it seriously and learn it all to truly make the most of what is on offer and hopefully win the Derby.
Against all odds, each race also feels unique due to the many phases and how the outcome differs based on player performance. The cute character designs and colourful environments are not a sign that there isn’t a real challenge to be found. It takes hard work to successfully complete every phase so that each race results in victory. It’s necessary to complete the Solitaire sessions in a timely manner with as few errors as possible. Those who are keen on getting to the Derby will need to put some effort into it. After all, the character’s very life depends on it. Obviously, it’s still possible to play the title without the need to be so competitive, but it’s part of the reason why it can get so addictive.
Yet, it can’t be denied that it is this almost obsessive focus on the races that can also make the title feel like a one trick pony. Although winning every race and eventually getting to the Derby is a time consuming task, it would have benefited the title from not just concentrating on this one task. Even the opportunity to train different horses doesn’t have much of an impact, given that racing is the way to improve their stats.
Despite the bizarre combination, there is no denying that it manages to pull it off and it makes for a rather unique take on horse racing. Whilst not a title that will have the same impact as the developer’s other titles, Pocket Card Racing is still a successful experiment that bizarrely enough even manages to make the inclusion of Solitaire feel relevant.