Pocket Card Jockey

released on Jul 31, 2013

A hybrid horse racing/solitaire game for the 3DS. Produced by Game Freak.

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An answer I'd accept for "what is the best Nintendo game of the 2010s," of which I think the only real competition is Breath of the Wild, and I'd probably take Pocket Card Jockey over BOTW at this point. See, I love solitaire. A lot. And not only is this game an absolutely fantastic version of solitaire, it also contains some of the best writing that's ever been in a Nintendo game of deeply absurd stories. Direly undersung. One day they'll put that iOS one on the Switch and I'll scream to death, come back to life, and play the shit out of it, much like my homie the Pocket Card Jockey does.

It’s solitaire with horse racing and power-ups, but MOSTLY solitaire and trying to beat your best times. Sometimes you fail spectacularly and other times you clutch a victory.
My greatest joy is naming the horses and seeing what names come up in the races. The speed solitaire is fun too, but more as a quick set of puzzles than a game you sit down and play for hours on end.
Fantastic game to play on a lunch break.

The literal only thing I knew about this game before I played was that it was solitare with horse racing. Except it wasn't even the version of solitare that I knew, so I knew nothing about this game.
The mechanics work surprisingly well for two wildly different ideas. Though they do work against each other too. The luck based game of solitaire doesn't mesh well with the need to consistently do well for the horse part (or is it luck? Is every single game of solitaire technically winnable if you're not bad like me?). Then again there's a lot of luck involved in the horse racing part too, as you could end up perfecting the card game only to be sandwiched so tight in the final sprint that you literally can't possibly win. Or there's times when I do well on the set off portion only for other horses to bump me so far out of the "comfort zone" that it's impossible to come back from. So you've really got 2 layers of RNG to deal with, which is a bit frustrating in a game where winning trophies is the goal.
But what I really don't like about the game is the age system. A horse stops growing after 10 or so races, which means you can't gain exp, thus its stats are capped. When this happens you can play some more races in "mature mode" (some of which are mandatory for even getting the credits since they only show up in this mode), but after another 10 or so races in this mode (or 3 losses), the horse is retired. You can then breed that horse in the farm, but only for a certain amount of times before it becomes unbreedable and thus useless for the rest of the game.
What this means is you'll end up raising a shit ton of horses, raising them, getting them skills and exp, only for the horse to become unusable after all that effort and you have to start fresh. Sure you can use that horse to breed other horses, for a little while, but not only is this time consuming since you'd at minimum need a good male and female horse, but it takes a full round in "growth mode" to even make a baby horse, so you have to essentially waste a round just to get that offspring for the next decent thing to use. Then it just repeats over and over, and only by constantly getting good male and female horses AND overcoming the RNG so they do well in races, is there a way to consistently climb the difficulty ceiling of the game. Because if you've have a pair of horses that can make good babbys, but the babbys do badly in races, the parents will stop love making, and you're back to square one.
And that's not even getting in to many other aspects of the breeding system, like how horses with the same "peak times" are better compatible, or how to even be able to race in certain races your horse needs to be a short or long distance runner (based on that peak type stat).
Fun game absolutely destroyed by a convoluted and grindy system. But it should be noted this is ONLY a problem if you want to complete the game, which unfortunately requires winning every race in the game at least once, bar one "bonus" race. If you're content just jumping in to the game and playing some solitare, and racing some horses until you get tired of it, you'll have a lot more fun. The whole resetting your skills every time may still be a bit annoying though.
Let me give some more praises to the game too, the game has 5 unique owners whose horses you essentially use in racing - even your own bred horses will get one of the owners attached to them. They all have unique personalities and come in to occasionally chat with your protagonist in cheap little puppet-style scenes. It can be entertaining to see these colourful characters interact, but admittedly by the end of the grind I was skipping through all the dialogue. There are also unique horse models that you can get too, like horses with fire-style hair, a horse with a cat hanging onto its back, or a horse with a dragon shaped head etc. So that's neat.

i never got dsware gift cards as a kid so i only ever played the demo of this. i would play the demo the 45 times i was allowed, and then i would redownload the demo. truly deeply great

I don't have the mental acuity necessary to comprehend how anyone can come up with such a concept, much less make it extremely fun.

Definitely, a unique combination that can be fun in short spurts, but I wouldn't spend an afternoon binging it.