Growing up, you are usually told to always be honest, truthful, and that lying is a bad thing. In Card Shark, if you play fairly; you lose. You need to learn how to stack the cards in your favor in order to win. You learn many different tactics as you progress through the adventure. Card Shark was created by Nicolai Troshinsky, and Nerial; who created the game Reigns. Devolver Digital published the unique experience and after a few delays, it is finally available to purchase. I was excited for this one when it was first shown off, but it has definately impacted me for a few different reasons that I did not expect.
You play the game as a young boy who experiences a very impactful moment in the first few minutes of the game and is needing to go with Comte de St-Germain, a con-artist who takes you under his wing. You play in the setting of 18th century France in where you are trying to make money and survive. Comte wants to take down the hierarchy through ways of making them lose their fortunes, but is that really going to be possible? By playing these different important figures throughout the game, you learn many different stories and secrets that are trying to be covered up. So many things occur throughout the story, that it really is hard to try to put them all into a few words. What I will say is this, the story is much, much deeper and better than I originally thought it would be.
Being a game that has the word Card in its title, you may think that you are just using playing cards in different games like Poker, BlackJack, 21, War, etc. This is not even close to what this game is at all though. In fact, throughout the whole adventure, you really don’t know what game is actually being played. I thought that was a great choice as it gives more creativity to it’s lore which I always find is a nice change of pace as it leaves it up to the players’ imagination. So if you aren’t playing card games, what do you actually do for the gameplay?
In terms of gameplay, like I said above, it is not a card game in the normal sense of the word. You are a cheat and con-artist trying to survive in the world. You basically learn different ways of stacking the deck like secretly looking at cards, marking cards, shuffling or stacking cards in a certain way, and a lot more. You learn these different tactics when traveling between different areas of the map and as you progress through the story of the game. When learning these new tactics, you can take as long as you need or practice as many times as you want until you understand it in-and-out. Once you arrive to the area where you are heading, that is when the scene starts. When you have money on the line and are with other people, making a mistake or going too slow is an issue.
People will be cautious of you if you take too long or have the bid too high in the beginning of the scene. If they get too suspicious and you get caught, the penalty could be death. If you die, it is not necessarily game over as you can either pay to get out or try and cheat death. I do not know what happens if you fail to cheat death as it didn’t happen to me. You learn a total of 28 different tactics throughout the 8 hour adventure. There are a couple that aren’t really related to cheating the cards. These include sword fighting, a coin toss tactic, and throwing a card. Gameplay never gets boring as you are thrown into different tactics constantly so it always is refreshing.
For each scene, you need to have money and there is a good amount of it throughout the game to get. You can get a lot of money by constantly going to certain areas repeatedly if needed. Besides money for the scenes that you need to go to, you also need to get money for the camp that you are a part of. You are asked to keep donating to a fund that supports a movement; however, from what I could see, I didn’t really see much point to donate more or less. So, personally I did donate to the fund, but not as much as I probably should have. Maybe there is something secret if you do donate more, but I didn’t find it. So gameplay and story wise, it is really good. What about everything else?
The art, music, visuals, and performance are all seriously well done, for the most part. The visuals that come with the loading screens, the imagery of each scene, and all of the art throughout the adventure just are stunning. I played on the Switch OLED, 90% portably and 10% docked, and the OLED screen really helps showcase the beauty of the game. The music, created by Andrea Boccadoro, has the sounds of 18th century France coming through vividly, clearly, and is an overall great score in general. There is no voice acting, but honestly, I didn’t feel like the game needed it. For the most part, the performance on Switch was nice, but there were a few issues.
I had 3 crashes which made me upset, but it never really was a big deal since saves are constant and never far away from one another. There were a couple of instances of bad frame rate. I was trying to do a Quick Time Event to pick a card for later, and I missed it because of a small frame rate dip. The last big issue I had with the game is the fact that the campground that you are brought to isn’t really clear of how it really changes the story overall with how much you donate.
So, in terms of what I think of the game, there is a lot that needs to be said. For an adventure that is about 7-8 hours long for your first playthrough, it really is a great package. The art and music work well together and are also great on their own. The story is fantastically dark, twisted, and deceptive all around. The gameplay is probably the most unique thing that I have played in, well forever. I don’t think there is a single game like this on the market from what I have scene; and that’s an awesome thing! So, for the price of the game coming in at $20, this is a very awesome game to pick up. I highly recommend the game, but don’t necessarily take my word for it, play it yourself. There is a demo that is fairly long and lets you transfer your progress into the full game. You don’t get to experience everything, but it is a good sense of how the whole game will go. The game is available on both Switch and PC. With this title, I have completed a total of 46 games in 2022 so far, and this is definitely one for my favorites currently.
**Please note that the game was reviewed courtesy of a review code thanks to the publisher, Devolver Digital. However, this does not impact my opinion of the game in any way. **
Review Score: 8/10