Have you tried…being a dandy crook in Card Shark?

Card Shark will be a tough argument for most people, but I honestly consider this a feature, not a bug. In an age of original Disney-Plus experiences, sweet salsa, play it your way, midway, something as refined as this hit me like a craft lightning bolt, and I want to share it with everyone I can.

Card Shark is a kind of card game from Devolver Digital and developer Nerial released to the public in early June, and I was pretty addicted to it right away. The premise is simple, yet engaging: you play a mute tavern boy in 18th century France who is framed for murder, and now forced to flee, he casts his spell with the (true) fallen noble storyteller, the Count of Saint Germain. But the Count has his own agenda, conning both high and low society in pursuit of an intricate plot that goes from the seedy backstage to the court of Versailles itself and… Well, I guess that is not so simple after all.

(Ch) eat the rich

shark card

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

First off, there’s a lot to recommend about Card Shark before we even get to the gameplay. Nicolai Troshinsky’s colorful visuals deserve special mention, as they are gorgeous (especially on my OLED Switch); the music is a light touch that nonetheless adds a scintillating feel to the proceedings, and the characterization is strong across the board. The actual plot of the plot is engaging enough, if a little crammed with extraneous characters at times, as Card Shark takes fierce delight in including characters from the story whenever he can fit them in, and sometimes where he can’t.

Seriously, Assassin’s Creed has nothing on that royal flush. Julie D’Aubiny, Voltaire, d’Alembert, Casanova, Clément Belle, Cagliostro, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the aforementioned Count, to name a few – figures in French history, great and small , are crammed into the narrative wherever they may be forced. Most of them don’t need to be here by any means, and a lot of those names will probably fly over people’s heads, but if you want to rob somebody, it might as well be somebody. one that counts, right? And I don’t even care about the contrived nature in which every conversation, deathbed confession, and scheduled execution suddenly has to swing into a game of poker, because that’s where the game really comes to life.

Scanning, scam and scram

shark card

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

Speaking of which, the gameplay will force you to cheat – that’s the whole point. The Count fills you in on various scams, and the point is to apply them carefully and cautiously as you sit around the table, making sure the haughty courtiers sitting opposite don’t catch you rigging things up. your favor. There’s still a real tension, fumbling with the game as you desperately juggle tactics and equations in your head, unwilling to stop in case your hesitation betrays you, but unwilling to rush in to ruin everything.

And what scams! The game features over two dozen different ways to hustle, usually based on surreptitiously manipulating the deck in such a way that you deal the right cards to the right people, but that hardly does it justice. The deck is a fully realized thing in many instances, and how you shuffle, adjust, and summon cards can get them into your hand or your opponent’s.

Admittedly, things started out a little wonky, because at first when it was walking you through these complex ideas, I was worried it would be quick events all the way, but I needn’t have worried. Soon you’re running complex formulas in your head as you smile innocently at your opponents, secretly scoring cards or slyly relaying information to your accomplice without anyone noticing. You can even take the risk of throwing a few games intentionally to quell any suspicions, before using their guard down to really get them to school.

What intrigues me about Card Shark is that I suspect you could learn a lot about scams. Of course, this can’t teach you the actual motor skills for a sleight of hand, but the principles of the con seem very honest and well done, with deceptions, misdirections and manipulations of all kinds presented. in an engaging and convincing way. They may not be a good role model…but we all know best friends never are.

Card Shark is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.

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