Card Shark Review – A Royal Flush

Card Shark Review

The possibilities with a deck of cards are near endless. You can sit with friends and play a variety of pleasant games, bamboozle an audience with mind-bending tricks, or even make a ton of cash by cheating your opponent. Card Shark dwells in the latter of these as you aim to con all that you encounter with fraudulent tactics, but is this deceit-filled deck worth a gamble?

Set in 18th Century France, you play as a silent, unnamed pauper who looks to profit from aristocrats around the country. With your partner, Conte de Saint-Germain, you will travel to numerous taverns and work together to scam marks. As you pilfer money, in true Robin Hood fashion, you can give this to the poor and help those in need. However, where scandal resides, so does conspiracy and soon you find yourself entangled in a royal plot where betrayal and insincerity are commonplace.

Even though Card Shark revolves around the deck, you never actually play a traditional game. Instead, you manipulate contests in order to influence the outcome. As an accomplice, you will use your bag of tricks to ensure your partner wins, however, if you get caught then this will prove fatal. At the bottom of your screen is a suspicion meter. Take too long to set up and the opposition will see through your veil of lies and take action. So you must be quick, swift and even concede the odd round to ensure you avoid speculation.

A Global Market

As you travel across Europe, you will learn new ways to swindle those at the table. Interestingly, each technique is rooted in real life, which means you get an insight into the inner workings of the underhanded ruse. As a result, you have to think logically about how you will successfully complete the scheme. While these are in essence mini-games, they perfectly capture the nuances of the art. Early tasks will have you simply pour a drink and sneak a look at your opponent’s hand. Then you will have to wipe the table in a particular pattern to silently communicate their highest card. Later you take elements you have mastered in previous segments to perform more elaborate ways to steal money from nobles. These vary from exploiting the deal, marking cards and much more.

The game brilliantly teaches you the many subtleties that thrive within the dastardly deck. You have the opportunity to practice relentlessly with expert guidance to perform complex maneuvers before you venture on a devious escapade. The way Nerial paces the game means you grow in confidence with your ability and feel like an actual Card Shark when you sit across your soon-to-be victims.

Due to the scandalous nature of the game with multilayered scams and trying to avoid suspicion, Card Shark is a tense affair. The stakes grow as you progress. Larger bets equal larger consequences. You may be riding high at one point and behind bars at another. And, don’t be surprised if you even end up in hell, gambling with death itself. The game strikes a lovely balance between relaxing and thrilling which makes each moment a joy.

A Trick of the Mind

There’s a lot to remember so it’s easy to get befuddled. Due to this, a good memory or even a pen and some paper is essential. If it gets a little tough then there are difficulty options available. Some include autosaves and a chance to respawn without penalty whereas the toughest has permadeath, and will challenge even the most cunning of gamers.

Card Shark is a visual treat. The stunning medieval tapestry style aesthetics creates a certain whimsy that permeates. The storybook-style presentation also delivers a layer of charm. As you enter a new setting, you’ll notice minor details that inhabit the environment which adds further personality. The accompanying orchestral symphonies perfectly build suspense and help to firmly establish it in an era. This delicious combination makes for an incredible and unique experience.

Not only does Card Shark explore a topic rarely seen in the medium but it does so with such authenticity that you can’t help but fall in love with the ruse before you. The stunning art direction and clever mechanics successfully put you in the shoes of a swindler. With a dodgy deck in hand, be prepared to get hooked on the hustle.

*** A Nintendo Switch key provided by the publisher ***

The Good

  • The Feeling of Being A Con Artist
  • Each Trick is Clearly Explained
  • Innovative Premise
  • Beautiful Art Direction

The Bad

  • Some May Struggle To Remember Everything
  • Can Get Complicated