They are saying cheaters by no means prosper, however clearly they’ve by no means performed Card Shark, a splendidly tense, goofy little recreation that’s all about preserving your cool below large stress as you mainly rob individuals blind. The act of pulling off the con is shockingly easy, however sustaining one’s composure to make sure that the whole lot goes in keeping with plan is shockingly not easy. Revealed by Devolver Digital, it’s the form of recreation that’ll persist with you lengthy after the credit have rolled, and when you’re even remotely , we’d very a lot encourage you to offer it a go.
Card Shark takes place in 18th century France and locations you within the position of a mute servant boy. Whereas ready on a boisterous noble calling himself the Comte de Saint-Germain (who truly existed) on the behest of your patron, you get roped into serving to the rascal cheat in a recreation of playing cards in change for among the winnings. Sadly, your opponent ultimately will get clever to what you’re as much as and your patron will get fatally shot within the ensuing battle. Impressed by your con-artist abilities and preying upon your newfound homelessness, the Comte thus takes you below his wing and the 2 of you set out on an journey to fleece all method of excessive society nobles throughout France. All of the whereas, you slowly start to appreciate that the Comte is snarled in a much bigger conspiracy in regards to the French royalty.
It’s a pleasant narrative all through, bolstered by the lighthearted, razor-sharp wit that permeates the writing. The silver-tongued Comte says greater than sufficient for the 2 of you, and there’s a sure form of goofy allure in how the pair of you handle to unravel all of your issues by leveraging your talents to idiot individuals. For instance, in case your character occurs to die at any level, you possibly can con Girl Demise—a skeleton with an opulent mane—in a card recreation to drive her to offer you your life again. Or in one other instance, you handle to get out of a hostage state of affairs by delaying your captors for lengthy sufficient with a recreation. We discovered ourselves trying ahead to what every new stage would carry, if solely to see what sort of hassle this conniving duo would get themselves into (and out of) subsequent.
Gameplay in Card Shark could possibly be most carefully described as a tackle the minigame frenzy of a WarioWare entry. Every stage duties you with finishing comparatively easy methods like shuffling a deck, flipping a coin, or pouring wine, and these are completed with Fast Time Occasion-like prompts. What makes this so thrilling is the truth that you’re continually below stress as you’re doing so, actually because it’s important to commit a number of data to reminiscence in a really brief time frame.
For instance, while you’re pouring wine for somebody, the display screen often splits in two to additionally present you the playing cards of their hand. You’ve got about three seconds to pour the wine—an excessive amount of or too little will draw consideration—however you additionally want to recollect issues like what number of playing cards that they had in a selected go well with or what their highest card was. Splitting your consideration between the playing cards and the quantity of wine within the glass is surprisingly tough, and we regularly discovered ourselves second-guessing whether or not we truly noticed what we thought we did within the opponent’s hand.
As the sport continues, there are more and more tougher minigames to finish, requiring extra steps and extra particular data to maintain in your reminiscence. This provides a pleasant issue curve to the expertise; simply while you really feel such as you’ve mastered the most recent trick, it will get tossed and it’s important to be taught a brand new one. This tempo additionally retains the sport feeling contemporary over time, as you’re not often going longer than 10 or quarter-hour earlier than issues shift to a brand new minigame that has totally different calls for and reinvents issues once more.
Every stage finally comes right down to you taking part in a number of rounds till your opponent is both broke or can’t meet the minimal guess. To maintain issues attention-grabbing, there’s an consciousness gauge on the backside of the display screen representing your opponent’s suspicion that you simply’re colluding along with your buddy on the desk, and if it fills up all the way in which, you’ll be both tossed out or killed. Having that meter continually shifting as you’re desperately attempting to correctly stack a deck or appropriately sign a particular card to your buddy provides plenty of rigidity, which might typically lead you to make sloppy errors leading to a misplaced spherical or tipping off your opponent. Once in a while, it will probably really feel just like the participant is being requested to maintain monitor of a bit too a lot, however we bumped into no situations that couldn’t be overcome with the fitting follow.
Card Shark isn’t a very laborious recreation, then, while you get proper right down to what you’re truly doing moment-to-moment, however there’s an amazing quantity of stress that comes with how a lot you’re being rushed in every minigame and this stress is what makes it so partaking. Regardless that every stage solely takes round 10 minutes to finish, it feels lots longer as you’re nervously eyeing the suspicion meter and attempting to recollect if it was an ace of hearts or an ace of diamonds within the opponent’s hand.
We additionally fairly appreciated how developer Nerial focuses intently on this rigidity with out including any pointless mechanics or filler to water it down. There’s no leveling up or shopping for gadgets to assist decelerate time or offer you one other likelihood when you forgot what’s in your opponent’s hand, it is a recreation the place you both rise to the event or endure bitter defeat. It’s not significantly skill-dependent both, making it very approachable to gamers of all ability ranges.
Nicolai Troshinksy’s painterly artwork fashion actually helps to promote the general aesthetic, presenting you with many richly detailed work that do lots so as to add to the immersion for every stage. Individually seen brush strokes assist to offer the background visuals attraction, whereas the characters transfer and animate in a easy, nearly stop-motion fashion. Every chateau or bar you end up in is way extra colourful than the real-world variations most likely regarded, giving issues an understated but implausible aptitude. Plus, issues like your mute character’s exaggerated ‘sketchy’ expression as he’s taking a look at one other participant’s playing cards ensures that loads of the humor within the writing is mirrored within the visuals.
As for the soundtrack, the music largely sticks to renaissance-style classical tunes, with the odd shanty or ballad tossed in to combine it up. The music suits like a glove for the general tone that Card Shark goes for, and although it isn’t significantly catchy, many tracks don’t sound too far off from what we anticipate could have been performed in a bar on the time.
Card Shark is the form of recreation that in the first place blush looks as if it simply received’t work. Plenty of dialogue bookended by transient, simplistic minigame sequences looks as if it will make for an expertise that may lose its luster shortly, but we couldn’t put it down. Witty writing, high-stakes gameplay, and a stunning artwork fashion all come collectively right here to make for a recreation that’s well-executed and distinctive in its attraction. When you’re trying to attempt one thing superior that notably bucks most trendy gaming tendencies, Card Shark is totally one thing we’d suggest, effectively price your money and time.