Pocket Card Jockey is not a game that’s being discussed much by Nintendo. It appeared briefly during a Nintendo Direct, and that’s about it. Nintendo took that minute-long segment from their Direct and made it the game’s trailer on their YouTube channel. Here it is, in all its short glory.
Looks sort of… lame, right?
To understand the appeal of something like Pocket Card Jockey, I think you need to know a bit about the Japanese arcade scene. While certainly not as popular as fighting games, rhythm games, mech simulators and arcade shooters, horse racing sims exist in Japanese arcades. They boast massive sections of game rooms, complete with multiple desks, personal screens and a humongous video screen.
I found this video on YouTube for reference. Uploaded by noodlenaddles, it’s short and features nothing else, but it’ll give you an idea of how much floor space these things dominate. Clearly, despite the absence of people, there’s a demand for them. I saw them every time I went to Japan.
Some of these games, like a lot of Japanese titles, offer cards for users to save their horses. That tracks wins, losses, unlocks, etc.. I’m not entirely sure how it works on these games, but for the Mario Kart that’s in Japanese arcades, the card is especially great to bring unique items and unlocks to your races.
With those Japanese horse racing sims in mind, Pocket Card Jockey from Game Freak, the same studio behind Pokémon, starts to make a little more sense. It’s still bonkers, but let’s parse it down a bit further.
This game is a mix of horse raising, stat boosting, breeding, racing and solitaire. The RPG elements are right in Game Freak’s wheelhouse, and Pocket Card Jockey is a pretty slow burn of an experience when it comes to raising and then breeding horses for that ultimate champion.
The solitaire side is where things get weird for Game Freak, but it’s a formula that works really well. You play solitaire in each raise in phases, and this is running solitaire that’s played almost exactly like Popcap’s Solitaire Blitz. The work you do in these quick games translates to energy for your horse in the race. Do well enough, and your horse might win.
The game’s a little too talky for my tastes at first, but it gets out of the way relatively quickly. I was ready to dismiss it based on its premise and look alone, though. Then I played it.
I’m addicted to Pocket Card Jockey, folks. It’s the game I play while watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and I somehow can’t even put it down when those games are finished.
Pocket Card Jockey is a premium title that will sell this week for the Nintendo 3DS. It should hit the eShop on Thursday. So far, it doesn’t offer microtransactions. Give it a shot.