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3DS

North America

Pocket Card Jockey (3DS) Review

by Neal Ronaghan - May 5, 2016, 4:55 am PDT
Total comments: 6

9

Solitaire and horse racing go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

Solitaire card games have never gotten their Puzzle Quest before. While electronic versions of spider, klondike, and all other sorts of solitaire have been around for ages, those games have only ever existed as, well, solitary concepts. Match-three puzzle games have been turned into RPGs and platformers, but solitaire has been sitting to the side. With Game Freak’s off-kilter Pocket Card Jockey on 3DS, that changes. Pocket Card Jockey mixes the basic tenets of solitaire with complex horse breeding and racing components in a way that’s humorous, engaging, and absolutely loony.

Pocket Card Jockey alternates between games of solitaire and maneuvering your horse around the track to build up different meters and acquire boosts. The solitaire games are straightforward, tasking you with clearing out the cards as quickly and efficiently as possible. In between games, you have to move your horse around from a top-down perspective, carefully balancing your positioning, energy, and stamina. It tiptoes on the side of being needlessly complicated, but as long as you don’t get too wrapped up in creating the perfect specimen, each race is a rewarding and electric few minutes of trying to make clever card moves and setting your horse up for victory. Some of my greatest recent gaming triumphs have happened here while outplaying the competition and getting a lackluster horse to win a big race.

Outside of the races, you have three ways to guide your horse’s career. First, you start in Growth Mode, where you raise your young foal’s stats while trying to win races. Once your horse reaches a certain age, they stop developing and then move into Mature Mode, where they compete in more challenging races. If you lose three times in Mature Mode, your horse is forced to retire to the Farm, where they can be shared via QR code or bred to make more horses that you can train. Then you start the whole experience over again.

What makes all of that so compelling is the style. Pocket Card Jockey is nonsense of the highest degree, as your character begins the game by being comically trampled to death. An angel (named Angel) brings you back, giving you the power to play solitaire while racing a horse. From there, you work with adorable horses while hearing from their ridiculous owners, ranging from a bored game designer to a malevolent businessman. Nothing in this game is ever taken too seriously, which makes its often grueling difficulty curve more forgivable.

While you can unlock ways to make your horses better out of the gate over time, the reality is that, most likely, your first couple of horses are going to be bad, especially as you learn the various nuances. But even still, sometimes the cards won’t go your way. Sometimes the horses around you will box you out and knock you out of your comfort zone. It can get frustrating, but when it does, you can just retire your horse and start with a new one, raising them the best you can. The whole experience weirdly mirrors playing actual solitaire. Some solitaire games are unwinnable, but you can always start over and try to win the next one.

If you’re looking for a solitaire game with a bit of pizzaz and a novel wrapper, Pocket Card Jockey is straight-up magic. The cartoony, goofy setup hides a deep, complicated experience filled with a variety of minute details. Just let yourself get washed over by the bright zaniness and enjoy clearing cards, moving horses, and ideally, winning all the races.

Summary

Pros
  • Colorful graphics and zany atmosphere
  • Elegant fusion of solitaire and horse racing
  • Humorous writing
Cons
  • Frustrating and punitive at times

Review code provided by Nintendo

Talkback

In. My. Veins.


Gimme.

PapasmurffMay 05, 2016

Hooked on this already

Dan LaserMay 14, 2016

This game is pretty addictive, but I could use some tips.

Racing style - what do they stand for? F, S, M, C? Front, Side, Middle…? Are they worth going for? When you get the “Special” triggered, it looks like your Energy rises faster, just like being in Comfort Zone 1, so that seems good. Especially if you are in front, away from the good comfort zones.

Should you use up all of your Giddyap points between solitaire games? Or just enough to not max out at 100. Also, is it better to stay in the comfort zones, or try to move ahead of the herd.

How do you save Energy vs Enthusiasm vs Stamina…


Do any of these numbers actually matter, or is it mostly random luck.

Umm… I can’t remember my other questions at the moment.


Any hot tips on horse racing solitaire would be appreciated!

Quote from: Dan

This game is pretty addictive, but I could use some tips.

Racing style - what do they stand for? F, S, M, C? Front, Side, Middle…? Are they worth going for? When you get the “Special” triggered, it looks like your Energy rises faster, just like being in Comfort Zone 1, so that seems good. Especially if you are in front, away from the good comfort zones.

Should you use up all of your Giddyap points between solitaire games? Or just enough to not max out at 100. Also, is it better to stay in the comfort zones, or try to move ahead of the herd.

How do you save Energy vs Enthusiasm vs Stamina…

Do any of these numbers actually matter, or is it mostly random luck.

Umm… I can’t remember my other questions at the moment.

Any hot tips on horse racing solitaire would be appreciated!

I'm addicted too! I haven't done any real research beyond playing the game 'til 2am in the morning several nights in a row though, so some of my tips may have varying amounts of truth in them... regardless this is where I currently am with regards game strategy:

Racing Style: F,S,M,C I understand to be the general area within the pack your comfort zones will be, that's why you see it with the arrows. An "F" denotes a Horse whose comfort zones will be up at the front of the pack, S (Stalker, I believe it's called) is a little behind there, M is even further back, and I'm guessing C is for horses whose comfort zones encourage them to take up the rear until the final stretch.

I SUSPECT that it's a little easier when your comfort zones are F or S because you'd get first dibs at cards without other horses deflecting them away from you. Other than that though I'm not making a big deal about the different spots and just trying to stay in whatever comfort zones I have.

In between Solitaire games I first plot out my horse's move, then I use ALL my leftover Giddyup/Unity points by rubbing the mood icon to turn it into energy. In rare cases I may have to think after the final turn about whether I want to use my giddyup/unity points to charge ahead, or stay in a comfort zone for more energy (red fire points). Usually I just stay in the comfort zone though.

As for Energy vs. Enthusiasm vs Stamina, this is actually something I'm still working through.

The way I see it, there's actually more things to measure:

Mini-Boosts (Heart Cards in the lower left of the top screen) - These cards can be used during the final stretch to get a small boost (which can rejuvenate a tired horse a bit), or if unused turn into a small amount of XP during growth mode. These are reduced in the exact same way that Stamina gets reduced (See below). There are heart cards on the track that can restore some of these.

Energy (Fire Points in the lower right of the top screen) - You accrue energy by running inside of a comfort zone, having cards left after a perfect game of solitaire, or by fulfilling special conditions created by your horse's unique "characteristic" (Check the tips screen to get a better breakdown by each characteristic?). When two horses collide, the horse with higher energy wins out and the other one is either nudge or bumped. Some exceptions to that exist, like runaway horses. When looking at the Energy of horses during the race, you will see gold, silver, and bronze crowns depicting which horse is 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place in energy count. Right before the final stretch, you will receive an "Enthusiasm" ranking based on your accrued energy. Longer races requires more energy to get a high enthusiasm rank. I think the red fire cards you see on the track also increase this number if you collect them.

Stamina (Invisible, not visually tracked by game) - I don't believe ANYTHING on the screen shows this. Stamina is denoted by your horse's stamina stat, and raised if you buy a carrot (z) before the race. I think if you pick up a carrot card on the track it increases this too. HOWEVER, Stamina is reduced when you run in the colored stamina reduction bounds on the track (higher on the screen), which are especially large during turns. You also lose stamina after your horse has a Peak Time event, so ideally you want your peak time to be the very last solitaire game in the race to skip the negative effects. Stamina is also screwed up if your horse goes runaway. I'm not sure, but stamina may also simply be reduced over the course of a normal race? BUT, if you get a perfect game in Comfort Zones 2 or 3, you will NOT lose stamina that turn.

Since I don't think Stamina is directly visible, I tend to look at my mini-boost cards as a rough approximator of it, though I suspect that they are actually independent values.

Unity/Giddyup (Number in upper right of bottom screen) - Accrue Unity Points by picking up blue flame cards, from your starting gate card, from your horse's unique characteristic if it gives this or matching lots of cards in a row during solitaire. This stuff is important because you use it to reposition your horse in between solitaire games, or you can rub the giddy-up icon to convert your excess unity points into energy between solitaire games. You can't ever have more than 100 unity points, and I don't think they help you on the final stretch, so usually I just use them all every turn I have.

Mood (Icon+Color in upper right of bottom screen) - The higher the mood, the more energy you get when converting unity points to energy. Also, if your mood drops too far, your horse will go runaway, not be controllable, and not only run so far ahead you lose position, but lose stamina and lose mini-boost heart cards. Each horse has a mood icon in their stats suggesting their general disposition, but I haven't figured out how this translates directly into each race... perhaps some horses get angry faster?

Enthusiasm (0-100 rating given before Home Stretch) - All that energy you've been saving up the whole race? It turns into Enthusiasm for the final stretch, with longer races requiring more energy for high enthusiasm levels. I believe that enthusiasm, combined with your horse's speed stat, dictates how fast the horse runs in that final stretch.

Pace - I have no idea what real effect this reading has on the game, or how it changes. I used to think it had something to do with mood, but I'm not so sure.

To me, an ideal race would go like this:

My horse STARTS in a good mood (They don't always do this, don't quite know why yet).

I solve the starting gate puzzle in under a second and grab a 5-star card. (high starting Unity, start off within comfort zone 3.) If I HAVE to choose between one or the other, I choose a fast start over a high star card. I WILL take a 1-star card if the timer reaches the halfway mark.

I play perfect games of Soliaire, getting lots of Unity from successfully matching lots of cards in one go, and generating lots of energy from having a bid pile of cards left at the end.

Between rounds of solitaire I reposition my horse to stay in comfort zone 3, and to pick up any power-up cards I see coming down the track, taking into account any deflection of hose cards by other horses. This is made much easier if I got a perfect game right before because that lets me push other horses around and draw track cards in to me like a magnet. I ALSO reposition my horse low enough on the screen to avoid losing stamina in those colored jagged bars when turning.

I repeat the above two steps, picking up power ups when available and disposing of dung cards if I picked those up too.

If I'm lucky, and understand how my horse's special characteristic works, I use that to get some extra points too.

My horse hits its Peak Time for the FINAL turn in the race. I maneuver so that I am NOT trapped behind other horses once the final sprint starts.

During the home stretch, I have a high energy count which translates to an enthusiasm of 100, or at least in the 90's. Combined with my horse's natural speed, this makes it easy to pass the other horses WITHOUT using any boosts.

If necessary, I use boosts to give my horse bursts of speed, or to blast through horses that are blocking my way.

Also, my horse's natural stamina and my preservation tactics keep my horse running without breaking a sweat. If it does start to sweat, I consider using a boost to give the horse a tiny second wind/stop the sweating, but this is only a super-short term solution and isn't always effective.

P.S. If I'm wrong about any of the above, the game could probably tell you exactly what the reality is if you go to the tips card (lower left of bottom screen) from your regular menu between races.

PhilPhillip Stortzum, May 15, 2016

Wow! Thanks for the in-depth post, Kairon! That will be helpful for when I pick up this game! :)

Dan LaserMay 15, 2016

Wow thanks for the great write up! I will try out these tips out when I play next (I've been having the same problem of playing way later than I intend to at night! Phil, you have been warned.)

Quote:

Each horse has a mood icon in their stats suggesting their general disposition, but I haven't figured out how this translates directly into each race... perhaps some horses get angry faster?

I'm not sure about this, but perhaps that icon refers to what mood your horse STARTS in? I haven't paid enough attention. I could see it being about their temperament and how fast the get mad though, that makes sense.

I find the tips section in the game isn't always that informative. I haven't actually looked at the digital manual, but maybe there are more tips there.


Well, I think I've gotta go play some cards now!

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Genre Party/Parlor
Developer Game Freak
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Pocket Card Jockey
Release May 05, 2016
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Solitiba
Release Jul 31, 2013
PublisherGame Freak
eu: Pocket Card Jockey
Release May 05, 2016
PublisherGame Freak
Rating12+

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