In the original Card Shark adventure, we play the role of an 18th century card sharpener somewhere in France: we are waiting for real tricks with cards, an interesting plot and a great photo. This game is yet another proof that projects from publishing house Devolver Digital deserve attention. In the review I’ll tell you why.
- Developer: nerial
- Publisher: Digital returns
- Publication date: June 2, 2022
According to the authors, the game was based on the manuscript “Memoires sans parole”, which one of the developers found in a second-hand bookshop in France. The source is obviously not popular, as it could not be found on the internet, but we have no doubt that this is the case.
This story starts quickly – we play for a stupid poor man who serves in a tavern with his mistress. While at work, he encounters the Count of Saint-Germain, who invites the servant to carry out his card fraud scheme and help defeat some lords. After the case is successfully concluded, which ultimately culminates in the death of the hostess, the Count and our hero escape – now the latter must join the crooks, drive across France with his new mentor and help him become rich and to figure things out.
The superficial plot about the desire to make money at the expense of the rich gradually deepens – the count not only robs the masters and helps the camp of the poor, which acts as our hub, but also investigates a personal matter, using playing cards as a means of extorting the truth. The dialogues are interesting to follow, as they are not devoid of humor, and the whole game looks like a series of pictures with heroes coming to life.
We are introduced to the pinnacle of gameplay – card fraud – when in the introduction we help a new friend defeat opponents. The gameplay consists of mini-games, each of which describes a certain card trick and where you have to pay attention, speed and memory. It seems like there is such a thing – you just click the mouse on the screen, draw something in the air and memorize the cards. It turned out that everything is much more interesting.
There are simple tricks – for example, “three Monte cards”, when the opponent tries to guess one of the three cards turned upside down on the table, after seeing it and carefully following the moves of the sharper one. There are also those that will force you to strain your brain – for example, “Bold Juggling”, when you switch two decks so that the cards your friend needs are on top.
Most tricks are played in pairs – for example “bottle of Cahors” means you look at your opponents’ cards while pouring them a drink, then hint to a friend about the higher suits and their number, while wiping the table with a rag , either in a circle or to the left, to the right, then up and down (these are the signals).
And there are already 28 such minigames, and each of them is interesting to remember and study – even there is a desire to master these tricks in life. In addition, they will tell us how to deceive a person not only with cards, but also, for example, when flipping an ordinary coin. The gameplay is incredibly addictive and I didn’t notice how many hours flew by.
Card Shark is an adventure game and so we travel to different places in France marked with dots on the map. There we try to defeat the French lords and slowly approach the solution of the “12 bottles of milk” case that our ally is so obsessed with. You get the impression that it’s the Count who is the main character, and not our silent protagonist, because it’s even more interesting to watch him.
But not everything is as easy as described – cheaters can be caught cheating and put in jail, where they will get out if the easy and medium difficulty is selected, or starve if you decide to play hardcore with one life.
And it’s very easy to mess up. Card players have a patience scale that depends on the stake and the time you spend on tricks. If you’re slowly building up a deck or haven’t been around the table for a long time (the count often sends you to other rooms under various pretexts so you can do what you’ve started), then the opponent will gradually boil like a cauldron. This bowl is immediately filled if you make a mistake – for example you accidentally juggled the same cards.
Card Shark isn’t meant to make you lose often though – you can turn on hints and beat death itself on easy and medium difficulty to “start up”. Moderate difficulty doesn’t smear the gameplay experience, for which the game is a huge plus.
As we pass, we earn gold coins, but these are mainly needed for betting, and the collected good is offered to be given to the hub camp as a donation.
Hand-drawn visuals are accompanied by an excellent orchestral soundtrack that recreates the atmosphere of the 18th century. Immersion in that time is maximum and through other details – the contrast between rich and poor is clearly visible, the characters are dressed in chic costumes and you can watch the intelligent conversations of the gentlemen forever with a touch of irony.
Of the shortcomings, one can only note minor bugs that are sure to be fixed (I ran into a situation where a mouse click accidentally worked and the trick failed), and the unfair complexity of one trick. It took me an hour to figure out how to remove duplicates from a repeating deck, and I ended up having to enable hints anyway. Although it was exciting.
How often should we learn the basics of card fraud, constantly pour wine over the French aristocrats in the role of a stupid poor man and enjoy a bizarre artistic image to the sounds of an orchestra?
While other developers are rolling out template shooters year after year, puzzling over how to turn cult games into a live service and chasing dubious trends, the authors of Card Shark presented a truly unique game, and you understand that there are still many interesting and untold stories.
The gameplay is based on real card tricks
Moderate, non-irritating difficulty
The visuals combined with the music are delightful
Perfectly conveyed the atmosphere of the eighteenth century
Some non-critical bugs
Focus on eliminating duplicates will definitely be remembered