Are you tired of following the rules? Playing nicely and letting each other’s talent decide your fate? Then you should check Card Shark out. This is the new nugget of gold from the Nerial studio, which had already served us the excellent Reigns, a kingdom management game based on cards and “swipes”. But this time, instead of letting your hand wisely slide to the right or left, it becomes necessary to deviate from the beaten path. Through an amazing concept, Card Shark throws us into 18th century France and teaches us the most cunning tricks to extract gold from lovers of the ace, the king, the queen and their two-colored army.
Test performed on PC. Card Shark will also be available on the Nintendo Switch on June 2, 2022.
The editor Devolver Digital is certainly a lover of cards. After releasing the excellent Inscryption in October 2021, he is back with the new project from the Nerial (Reigns) studio: Card Shark. A card game where the goal, the concept itself, is to cheat. We are not talking about a strategy that needs to be activated or deactivated between two hands: all phases revolve around this principle, just like the scenario for that matter. The player here embodies a chrome worker, moreover dumb, seen one fine day by the Count of Saint-Germain. Under his gentlemanly figure, the man is an expert capable of stripping anyone at a gaming table. One leads to the other, he becomes your mentor and teaches you his most secret techniques. . An apprenticeship that will quickly prove to be fascinating.
Because Card Shark seduces first and foremost thanks to its recipe, its concept. The Nerial studio offers us a large collection of cheat codes here, both ingenious and totally crazy, with about thirty techniques in total (for 8-10 hours life). Each of them takes the form of a gameplay phase, a kind of mini-game often in several phases. For example, serving wine to a guest, looking at his hand over his shoulder and showing your accomplice the high cards in front using a symbol on the table. Well yes, Card Shark does not ask you to follow a game from A to Z. You will also be much more likely to help your friend cheat than to cheat yourself. Each “mission” is thus divided into three rounds, where it will be necessary to apply the strategy laid upstream with the Count of Saint-Germain. The more rounds are connected, the more the winnings on the table increase, just like the doubts of your opponents. Some cheating moves actually require speed and precision, and at the slightest mistake – or by thinking a little too long – the whole assembly will be warned. If she unmasks you, the game ends immediately. However, it is possible to dispel these suspicions with “perfectly timed” movements.
The formula may seem simplistic, however the game phases in Card Shark are actually of a formidable efficiency. Already because they mix speed, precision and calm, but above all because they manage to transcribe certain situations surprisingly well. Like when you pull a pack of cards with your thumb, for example. In this case, a gesture too much with the right stick will cause you to lose precious seconds. The same goes for the times when you have to pour a glass of wine and mix the pile. With practice, Card Shark techniques become natural and instinctive. Their complexity is ingeniously rendered here, with a good balance of requirements and accessibility, so much so that we almost think we could handle the trick ourselves. Only some strategies – especially at the end of the adventure – will require an advanced understanding of the maps. It is in these few cases that Nerial shows a slight lack of pedagogy, which can be frustrating (note that in the equivalent of easy mode, you can access clues in the middle of the game and even win without having to play) . To understand a trick well is to have the guarantee of success. And missing is often very expensive in 18th century France.
For a while now we’ve been talking about cheating, big money, but what about the structure of Card Shark? For you are not so good at cheating space-time and teleporting yourself. After a brief introduction, you are released on the roads of France with the Count. Several destinations will open their arms to you, from Versailles to Toulouse, even Germany. They are not all mandatory to move forward in the scenario, but each time reserve a new cheating technique. Each mission is thus divided into two separate parts: Training with your mentor, sitting comfortably in a horse-drawn carriage; then practice this technique on the court, facing other players. A structure that is necessarily quite superfluous, but often challenged. Some games have good surprises waiting for you (after all, you are not the only one who knows how to cheat) and a loss can always land. Sometimes it will be bankruptcy, imprisonment or even worse: death. But even in this catastrophic case, you can get out of it. Note that Card Shark offers “permadeath” in its maximum difficulty: either permanent loss of your saws and character if you accumulate too many errors.
Card Shark – First nest egg thanks to cheating (Gameplay)
Card Shark thus tries to bring the player a hint of freedom, but which does not work more than that. It can be helpful to choose your destination if a mission initially seems too complex or you do not have enough money to attend. But this does not go beyond the stage of “the little more”. It is the same observation for the extra activities on the map of France. In addition to the main tasks, it is possible to access a permanent game table to recover money in case of a problem (on this you choose the trick to perform from a choice of three techniques) and to your “cheat camp”. The latter allows you to find some familiar faces and help your community through donations. Unfortunately, this money is obviously of little use, other than saving your account in the event of bankruptcy. Changes are too rare to be of real interest. All in all, we would have liked Card Shark to offer more point’n’click “exploration” scenes to put an end to the whole, as is sometimes the case during the adventure.
A winning hand
Because yes, Card Shark is not flawless. You may find yourself without a penny in your pocket to repeat old tricks that you no longer have in mind. Or swearing occasionally to miss a late game that forces you to start over, even though you swore you had the advantage. But never anything serious. In general, Card Shark remains very addictive, catchy, who always manages to revive the player’s interest with its qualities – on the one hand – and thanks to the natural curiosity evoked by its concept alone. It’s simple, we always want to know more about the Count’s crazy techniques. Especially since this quest to rob France is accompanied by a greater mystery about the king himself. All underlined by burlesque and neat dialogues, a soundtrack well-tuned, not to mention the superb artistic direction that gives this tour a superb patina. The Nerial studio did not play us, and pulls a unique and striking title out of the sleeve.
- A very eye-catching unique concept
- Much more than just “mini-games”
- Techniques transcribed with talent
- A very successful artistic direction
- Burlesque, fun and nice writing
- A game you will soon forget
- A rather superfluous structure
- Slight lack of pedagogy
We waited for Card Shark with some impatience and so much to say that we were not disappointed. At the same time, smart, original, exciting, effective, the game from the Nerial studio here offers a unique adventure. It must be said that the very concept of the title – teaching us about thirty tricks to cheat on cards – is the source of a natural curiosity that always makes you want to know more. But the creators of Reigns go further. Under the guise of simple mini-games to transcribe these ingenious and crazy strategies, Card Shark surprises and gets closer to the precise handling of the cards without making it all indigestible. Admittedly, yes, there are a few times where Nerial lacks pedagogy, or the structure turns on the player with a lot of frustration. Nor would we have said no to a less repetitive pattern. But how can you remain indifferent to so much charm? For us at JV, it’s a big yes!
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