Card Shark - Take Them For All They’ve Got
It takes a cool head and a steady hand to manipulate cards so that they always fall in your favour. Forced from the only life you have ever known, you will have to learn the tricks of the trade if you are going to pull your weight and help your new comrades solve a mystery that takes you on a journey to gambling tables all over the 18th Century French countryside. This is a game that, while I loved as I was making my way through the storyline, also generated moments of sheer rage as I failed in my attempts to cheat over and over again. As you make your way through the different locations and progress the story you will unlock different tricks that are to be employed with your partner-in-crime as you swindle your marks out of their coin and their information.
There is very much an over-arching narrative featuring twists and turns that make it difficult to predict just where the story is going and thinking back after completing the game I have questions. There are possible connections between sections but I have no real way to confirm my suspicions. I am being purposely vague as I do not want to ruin what is an interesting story, and these questions are more about what I potentially missed than a failure of the developers. It is possible a second playthrough with the knowledge I have now will allow me to see these connections more clearly.
As one would imagine, the sleight-of-hand and know-how needed to successfully cheat at cards only comes from hours and hours of practice, honing the techniques until it can be performed flawlessly and without anyone noticing. Obviously, you will not have that long. As you journey to new destinations, your mentor will teach you new techniques to be used. Some of these will build off the skills you have already learned, but some of them will be completely new techniques that are not easy to master. While there are not a lot of these moments, they can really slow down your progression through the game, especially when the story is gated to the new technique. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to make some notes and keep them handy, especially when you are trying to remember which signal correlates to a specific suit. To add an extra layer of challenge, you have limited time to engage in your sneaky shenanigans, and if you take too long your mark will call you out as a cheater, risking your own life.
Fortunately, if you do die there is a simple mini-game that will allow you to cheat death and take you back to before that particular encounter. Those who do not shy away from a challenge can take on the perma-death mode and make the stakes feel that much more real. On the flip side, if you are finding certain tricks to be a little bit too hard you can always drop the difficulty level, giving you more time to think and in the worst case, after you fail it will give you the option to skip playing those rounds to allow you to continue on with the story. I should also make mention that the game recommends that you play with a gamepad rather than a keyboard and mouse. I followed the recommendation and after seeing the methods used and the QTE’s I can see a gamepad being the ideal way to play.
With a simple art style and a mellow soundtrack that perfectly fits the world and blends into the background and allows you to focus on the task at hand. While not a long game, coming in at eight hours of playtime, Card Shark was a different experience that succeeded in drawing me into its world and making me strive to be the best swindler I could possibly be. While not a long game, Card Shark drew me into its world and made me want to master the cheating techniques to pull the wool over the eyes of the French aristocracy
Card Shark was reviewed on PC using a code provided by Devolver Digital