My Kingdom for a Card Shark!
You know, life could be better. Now don’t get it twisted, things aren’t all bad working in this tavern; after all, there’s a roof over your head and a lovely dog to pet, but the landlady isn’t all that kind (in fact, she’s downright abusive) and there isn’t a lot of growth opportunity here. But when you’re a mute of no means in 17th century France, it’s not like being a server is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, scratch what I said earlier — after listening to that finely dressed man talk about rigging a game of cards in our favor, perhaps there is some opportunity for growth after all…
So begins Card Shark, a title I’ve personally had my eye on since the French Revolution (okay, maybe not that long, but definitely for some time!). Currently being developed by Nerial (Reigns, Reigns Her Majesty) with publishing being handled by Devolver Digital (*wild gesturing*), Card Shark is less a game of cards and more a game of card tricks — one where the state of your hand doesn’t matter as much as the sleight of it. With your coin-counting allies, Card Shark allows players to take down an “unscrupulous group of scoundrels and rogues, rumoured to possess an unlimited fund between them.” Rags to riches, indeed!
As previously mentioned, Card Shark has players taking on the role of a young mute man who hasn’t had the best of luck in life; in the first few minutes that we come to know him, we see someone who is taken advantage of by his boss and then immediately <<spoilers>> straight up framed for murder <<end spoilers>>. For better or worse, there’s the Comte de Saint-Germain, a man of style who has casually strolled into the younger man’s life and changed it forever, seeing something in him that others didn’t: a literal card shark. After a few lessons on cards, cheats, and codes, the pair promise to work together to liberate France’s disposable income from the landed gentry, comfortable nobility, and maybe even all the way to the top.
It’d be easy to think Card Shark is a card-based game — a game of poker, cribbage, or all fours — but is instead a card trick-based game. This means using codes and cheats to communicate with our partner the Comte to ensure all bets pay off. For example, by using the pretense of being a waiter to pour an opponent a glass of wine, players can take a quick peek at their hand, then wipe the table in a specific pattern (clockwise, up and down, etc.) to indicate the most numerous suit in his hand. The Comte can also deal cards to the table that allows players to steal a glance at the unsuspecting target’s hand, then tacitly convey the highest card’s information simply by the way one is dropped on the table. Sneaky, sneaky!
The trickery doesn’t end in a game of cards; Card Shark also encourages players to partake in tricks outside of traditional games in an effort to swipe as much coin as possible. This means that players will need to rely on careful timing and button presses to ensure a successful sleight of hand. You’ll get quite a few opportunities to use this knowledge to your advantage, so be sure to keep these tricks up your sleeve. Although the game suggests a controller would make for more intuitive play, I found a keyboard to be just as easy to use. Whatever it takes to make sure the house wins!
I have nothing but praise for Card Shark thus far, from the glorious use of color and divinely mesmerizing animations, the dulcet tones of the harpsichord and subtle sound effects, and the way in which the story is woven as the illicit pair tavern-hops their way across 17th century France. There’s a lot to learn upfront, but once you get the mechanics down, you truly feel like a seasoned… well, card shark redistributing riches away from the wealthy and into your own coffers. Like your coin purse, Card Shark absolutely a game to keep an eye on.
Be sure to check out Card Shark on Steam or Nintendo today!