PC, Nintendo Switch; Devolver/Nerial
An entertaining celebration of sleight of hand from the makers of Reigns
The video-games industry teems with virtual card games, from tournament standbys such as Hearthstone to cultish backroom affairs like Inscryption. One thing they all share is that you can’t cheat – or not in ways familiar to, say, the con artists of 18th-century France. Card Shark casts you as one of these, a mute youth recruited by the Comte de Saint-Germain to be his foil in a series of two-person grifts. It’s not necessary to know what game you’re apparently playing – all you need to do is follow the comte’s instructions, stacking the deck and marking or stealing cards in a wonderful affirmation of the sociability and skulduggery of old-school tabletop gaming. At least, that is, until you’re caught palming an ace and gunned down in your chair.
Developed by the people behind the delectable swipe-right storyteller Reigns, Card Shark is essentially a mini-game collection comprising 28 tricks, taught to you over the course of a cheerfully anti-establishment adventure that moves from a caravan in the woods to the king’s own banqueting hall. A simple one to begin: scoop up discarded hands in the right order so that your partner ends up with the trumps. Later, you’ll discreetly bend cards so they rise to the top of the deck, and indicate values to the comte by the way you hold your glass. The fiddliest scams are feats of memory – first loading the deck with duplicates, then sneaking those cards out before you deal again. The secret is to do all this without maxing out your opponent’s suspicion bar, which fills up when you fumble or delay and empties when you lose.