Pocket Card Jockey, Game Freak’s latest unexpected Nintendo eShop release, is incredibly unorthodox. You play a jockey who gains the ability to win horse races by playing solitaire after a near-death experience. Except winning isn’t only about being good with cards. There are a number of different elements that influence how well you do or don’t do in the game.
You begin Pocket Card Jockey in Growth Mode. You begin working with a two year old horse and act as its jockey until it turns four years old. These early races have optional cards appearing on the track that increase stamina, allow you a burst of speed in the home stretch, provide an experience boost, or bring you closer to learning a new skill. Your first horse gives you unrealistic experiences for all other horses. It isn’t too difficult to win races and Chirp, the sales woman, sells various boosters for a few hundred or thousand dollars. The initial horse’s stats are average and it’s easy to do well.
It’s subsequent horses that show how much of Pocket Card Jockey is left up to chance. It all begins with the horses you’re able to ride. The pool of characters to choose from may or may not have good speed and stamina stats. They might not peak at an opportune time. (It’s best if this happens later.) You only have a handful of horses to choose from and you aren’t guaranteed a promising partner unless you’ve begun breeding retired racers.
This means you can be stuck with a mount that won’t have your back. A horse with at least 60 stamina is ideal, as you need as much energy as you can get. Speed can be sacrificed, as long as you know you’ll have that extra opportunity to try for a better place in the home stretch. You never know which cards you’ll get in a hand, and stamina is only preserved if you manage to clear the board. You can make all the right moves and still fall short.
Paying to win isn’t an option once you get invested in Pocket Card Jockey. While Chirp’s items start out reasonable, the prices jump after your first horse. They’ll be at a few thousand dollars, and often at least $15,000. Races tend to only pay out about $5,000, unless it’s a $10,000 G1 race. It makes more sense to save your money for $10,000 puzzle pieces.
To start winning streaks, you need to begin breeding. Pairing up retired horses means their offspring can appear as possible horses in Growth Mode. Horses that have won a lot of races in the Growth or Mature Modes have a better chance of creating strong kids. Promising parents have stars on their profiles, showing you should absolutely start to breed them. If you have a horse that isn’t performing well, going after as many cards as possible in Growth Mode is a smart idea, since it’ll level them up and put them in a better parental position.
It’s also a good idea to play through some races in Mature Mode. If you have a really good horse that performed well in Growth Mode, wait to retire him or her. Try and rack up a few more G1 wins and collect more puzzle pieces. It’ll also give you a chance to improve your solitaire skills, so things will go better once you do start training your favorite horses’ foals.
Finally, don’t forget that sharing is caring. You can share your retired horses’ QR codes. (Unfortunately, QR codes from the Japanese version of the game won’t be recognized.) These can be scanned in at the Farm and paired up with each other or your own animals. After a few races in Growth or Mature Mode, their baby can be used in Growth Mode. You can only pair up two horses and have 12 non-paired ponies, so keep a close eye on your stables. Use the best of the best to help you win trophies and solitaire hands.
Pocket Card Jockey is a game with a surprising amount of depths. Shooting for supplemental cards in Growth Mode, continuing to win races in Mature Mode, sharing QR codes with other people, and doing a lot of breeding is the only way you’ll make the best beasts.
Pocket Card Jockey is immediately available for the Nintendo 3DS.