Card Shark review for Nintendo Switch, PC

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Nerial
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

I feel like I should love Card Shark. It was developed by Nerial, who created Reigns, and Arnaud De Bock, who created Pikuniku. I Reigns, and I adored Pikuniku. Throw in the fact that it looks incredible, the story is engaging, and it?s got a fantastic score, and it seems like I should be all over it.

The thing is, though, I don?t, and I think it?s because I?ve never been super into the WarioWare series ? and WarioWare, more than anything else, may just be Card Shark?s biggest influence.

Even though Card Shark is superficially about a card cheat working his way through pre-Revolution France, what it?s really about is mastering a series of minigames. You mark cards, you switch decks, you use false shuffles, you tip off your partner about what cards are in which player?s hands ? and you do all of it by memorizing various twists, turns, and presses on your controller. Not only that, you have a short time in which to do the moves, and the game keeps piling on new ones the further in you get. It?s stressful in the same way as WarioWare is, where you have to remember some fairly non-intuitive motions without much in the way of leeway, and failing to do so sets you back. Admittedly, the easiest mode is a little more forgiving ? but not so forgiving that you?re not stuck playing what feels like minigame after minigame.

As I said, absent that core gameplay mechanic, there?s a lot to love about Card Shark. It?s absolutely gorgeous, and frequently looks like a series of sketches come to life. Likewise, the music is perfect for the game, evoking a feeling of Bourbon-era France with its mandolins and whatnot. Even the story, which makes reference to the growing dissension that culminated in the French Revolution while still advancing the story of Comte de Saint-Germain and his mute prot?g? (you?re the latter). It all moves along at just the right pace?

Right up until you have to learn a new card trick, at which point it feels like you?re playing a minigame that?s at odds with the vibe of the rest of the game.

Obviously, if you?re okay with WarioWare-style minigames, then that may be a bonus for you. And if I could ignore my dislike of them, then there?s plenty about Card Shark to make it worth recommending ? and even with those minigames, I?d still say it?s better than average. But unless you?re really fond of wiggling your thumbsticks around every few minutes, you may find the whole experience to not be as good as it could have been.

Devolver Digital provided us with a Card Shark Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: B