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Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! (Switch) Review


One of the best sports games of all time comes to Switch.http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/66443/pocket-card-jockey-ride-on-switch-reviewEight years ago, Pocket Card Jockey was released on 3DS outside of Japan, and it rocked my face off. Sincerely, Pocket Card Jockey is one of my favorite 3DS games ever, and I consider the 3DS one of my favorite systems ever. So when developer Game Freak (best known for Pokémon games and underrated Switch game Little Town Hero) brought back Pocket Card Jockey in an upgraded form, I was ecstatic. A year after its Apple Arcade debut, Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On is now on Nintendo Switch, carrying over the glory of the 3DS original with a handful of smart tweaks and a middling button control option.The hook and progression of Pocket Card Jockey remains relatively unchanged from the 3DS game. You play as a horse jockey who isn’t very good at racing, but after being killed by a horse, you’re brought back to life and are now good at horse racing thanks to your ability to play a solitaire card game. The presentation echoes the insanity of the setup, with colorful cartoon characters and a rollicking soundtrack. The writing is charming, poking fun at the preposterous combination while staying engaging and amusing throughout with an evolving cast of quirky characters.Races play out alternating between rounds of golf solitaire and positioning your horse on the track. Each race closes with a home stretch sprint, which is the only time you directly control your horse in real time. What makes this work is that everything feeds together and feels kinetic. Completing rounds of solitaire successfully will help give your horse more energy, while your positioning on the track at certain points will tweak your stamina. Collecting cards along the way can improve your horse’s happiness and boosts. Finally, all of these combine to power your horse to the finale at the finish line. What you do is far removed from the actual act of horse racing, but what has made this eclectic equestrian solitaire game so special is that it manages to capture the frantic immediacy of a race through unconventional means.It’s still confusing at times, much like the 3DS release, but the altered and updated presentation helps to better communicate the nuances of races. Additionally, the tutorials are gentler, providing you a better intro and clearer reminders when you hit a wall. The upgraded visuals look sharp on the Switch’s screen and also translate well on a bigger TV. What doesn’t translate as well to TV is how the game controls. Artifacts of the 3DS design hold it back with full button controls. It’s workable but awkward to control fast-paced solitaire with an analog stick and buttons. The only part where buttons work best is in the final stretch. Otherwise, let me just sit back with the Switch in handheld mode and tap my cards away.Even though this is more or less my third time playing through Pocket Card Jockey, the game is as enthralling as ever. The main thing holding it back is that it just doesn’t flow as well if you primarily play Switch on a TV. As a portable game, especially since the races are relatively quick and easy to pick-up-and-play, it excels. One of the unsung heroes of the 3DS is now on Switch, and at a minimum it should win, place, or show in the pantheon of Switch greats.


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