The Card: Poker, Texas Holdem, Blackjack, Page One Review

The Card Title Screen
The Card Title Screen
Released 2018
Platform Platforms
Publisher D3Publisher Inc. (Website)
Developer D3Publisher Inc. (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Card Games
Poker
BlackJack
Texas Holdem
Page One

It’s like someone looked at The Game and proclaimed “Hold My Beer”. The Card is going to be hard to beat for search engine unfriendliness.

I enjoy poker. Not gambling so much, but poker. Texas Holdem and Omaha Hi-Lo are probably my favourite flavours. But playing these games without going to a casino and spending money has always been a mixed affair.

Home games are fine, but eventually, players always come along that insist ‘it’s no fun without cash on the line’. That leaves video games.

These have always been hit or miss. Years ago I would play the World Series of Poker games. They were fine, but the story mode and animation would annoy me when I just wanted to unwind.

There are some free poker games (mainly online multiplayer), but I find they are full of people that just go all in every hand.

If you want to play snap, please leave my poker table!

WSOP Tournament of Champions
Graphically impressive for the time, but to just 'play' poker the old WSOP games were frustrating

So cruising around the Nintendo eShop the other day, I saw a game that made me think The Game has competition. Not in gameplay, but in being the worst titled game around.

Meet The Card: Poker, Texas Holdem, Blackjack, Page One.

So the first thing that people will probably notice is the look of the game. No flashy animation, no avatar, no even real naming options. The tutorials are all text. No cut scenes, and no voice acting.

It looks like a student project. It’s a polished project, but a simple application without any ‘flash’. But it’s also AUD$2.25 on the eShop at the moment. I had $1.70ish in my wallet and points for the difference, so I bought The Card.

Lately, I haven’t had much ability to play the games I want to. A poker game I can pick up and play sounded like a nice distraction.

And honestly, it surprised me.

The Card - Menu
The screens are functional, if not eye catching

It’s just a card game, what’s to enjoy playing solo?

Like any game, card games aren’t for everyone. What had me interested in The Card was Texas Holdem, and maybe Blackjack.

There have been quite a few video card poker games. Most are online affairs, but the ones that focused on solo play also tended to try and give the player ‘a game’.

Not in a ‘how do you make poker more interesting’ type game. All of these games have set rules and changing those changes the game. No, you usually get ‘story modes’ that add objectives for you.

Another addition can be player avatars. These can be further enhanced to show the AI players thinking, trying to recreate the experience of ‘reading’ your opponents.

The Card - Casino Menu
You don't have to 'unlock' games - just pick what you want to play

While interesting and technically impressive, if you just want to sit down and play some cards, having to sit through all these aspects can be detrimental to the experience.

This is where The Card shines. Want to play a couple of rounds of Blackjack? Start the game, select the game, and you are playing straightaway. No downtime, no fluff, just the game.

The Card - Blackjack
Want to just play some blackjack? In The Card, you can be in and playing almost immediately.

You better already know how to play the game.

This streamlined game experience does have some drawbacks. There is no tutorial on how to play, for example. There are ‘how to play’ rules, but they are very short. It’s not like Poker or Blackjack has complicated rules. Still, there is terminology specific to the games that you should already know.

Luckily there are plenty of YouTube videos that will teach you how to play each game. Eventually, I will be looking one up for Page One – I have never heard of this game! But the other three games are well executed, so why not give it a try?

The Card - Tutorial
The information is fine for refreshers, but if you were learning the game like this, different story.

But what’s the incentive to play in the first place?

This is where my usage may be considered niche, but I doubt I am alone in wanting a Card Game distraction. I gave The Card a chance on a whim. It was cheap, and what was the harm?

Where The Card instantly showed me one of its strength is each ‘tournament’ is only 5 rounds. Will you make a fortune playing 5 hands of cards? Probably not. But you won’t instantly go broke trying to ‘beat’ a tournament to progress either.

You can raise bets to be ‘all in’ and push your luck, but it’s not the default play style. This is your only real goal – play a few rounds, hopefully leave the table with more chips than you started with, and build a virtual fortune.

The Card - Customisation
You can customise a lot more than I expected, not just some appearances.

There is no tournament scene to dominate, or local ‘legends’ to beat to progress. Just sit and play some cards.

The best part? You can finish a ‘tournament’ in about two to three minutes, depending on your analysis paralysis level. Without having to watch AI players ‘think’ about their moves or watch pretty but time-consuming animations, the games are incredibly quick.

What keeps you wanting to play?

Really, just wanting to have a small distraction is the reward for me. One of the appeals to Texas Holdem is the real-time probability analysis. And yes, I am pretty sure I just put Alpal to sleep. 🙂

Playing other poker games tends to deny me this. You either have free multiplayer games, but as I said earlier, a noticeable percentage of players don’t play ‘properly’. Just betting everything on a chance of winning big each round is not what I consider playing a game.

Well, it is a game. Just not the game everyone else is trying to play.

So, to just sit down when I have a few minutes and play a few rounds of a card game with no added ‘single-player’ pressures like progression has appeal for me.

The Card - Achievment Earned
'Tournaments' are just limited run games. It's still satisfying when you win though.

But it looks so… meh?

Now don’t get me wrong, the controls work fine. You can use the Switch touch screen (did you forget it had one? I do a lot!), joycons or a pro controller.

What I wish I could remap are the default buttons. To raise a bet, you hit the bottom button (B), and to sit/check/pass or call, you press the up button (X). You get used to it, but this layout seems counter-intuitive to me.

The Card - Poker discarding cards
It may not be the prettiest UI, but it is clear and functional.

So what are the downsides?

There aren’t many. What some people may overlook as not ‘modern’ gaming standards (graphics, avatars, voices) are actually a bonus for streamlined gaming experiences.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t something I wish I could change – the controls.

Yep. But you can change this. The Card has in-game achievements, and making them unlocks customisation options. OK, it’s not much – but it is a nice little touch. I have largely ignored it though.

What you can also unlock is the ability to change the number of rounds you can play. As you win more and more games, you can also increase the number of rounds you can play. Want to play a 50 round game of Poker and try to suck your AI opponents dry? You just have to win games on the lower round count first.

The Card - Achievments
The achievements so far are easy to unlock. Just a little dissapointed they are mostly hidden.

The other thing I would like to be added and made its use customisable is input protection. For example, the ‘all in’ button is R2. Hit the button, and you bet everything you have.

A couple of times now, I have had to put down the Switch to do something else. Because of bad timing (my turn came around while I was putting down the Switch), R2 was accidentally hit, and I bet everything. Once I was fortunate and bankrupted all three opponents on the first hand. You can’t expect this to be a strategy though.

Adding an ‘Are you sure?’ prompt to All in (and folding – I have folded amazing hands by accident!) is usually a common feature of card games. It can get annoying, so the other convention is to make this prompt customisable. Not the wording – just if you want to see it or not.

But really that’s it. For me, the most significant downsides of the game is a ‘can you update this’ and getting used to a control layout. That’s pretty good feedback for a game that costs less than a cup of coffee.

Overall Thoughts

The Card: Poker, Texas Holdem, Blackjack, Page One is a hidden diamond for certain card players. I didn’t realise this game was two years old, and it has flown under a lot of radars.

If you want to play for ‘real’ money or against human players, there are plenty of other options available. But if you are the sort of player that just wants to play a few quick hands of cards without ‘story’ or other video game elements getting in the way, then The Card is a game for you.

I wish you luck trying to Google it though! :p

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  • Smooth, quick gameplay
  • No extraneous single-player elements
  • Can play a whole ‘tournament’ in minutes
  • Customisable game length

Cons

  • Need to know how to play before going in
  • Control system is fine, but not as intuitive as I would like

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

The Messenger sounds interesting, and Burnout coming to Switch

The Messenger Burnout Paradise

The Messenger sounds exciting, but it is for the US only. And soon I can crash cars during lunch at work in Burnout Paradise!

Today is a funny one. The Kickstarter that caught my attention the most is restricted to US delivery only. Oh no, the first world problems 😀

So today, a couple of mini-articles on things I am looking forward to are rolled together as one!

Can you solve the mystery left by The Messenger?

I like things that tickle my brain, but only in certain moods. At the moment, work is doing that well enough thank you!

So the other day when I saw The Messenger on Kickstarter, I took note. The premise of a package turning up at your door with a mystery to solve isn’t unique, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.

The idea behind The Messenger is you receive a package from Shaun Lyons. Shaun accepted the package himself but has run out of time to finish the puzzle. So now, he has passed the mystery on to you.

It looks intriguing, and the same people created the Immersion Escape Rooms. At AUD$100 for hours of puzzles, I was ready to jump in and hit the button.

And then I saw the catch. It delivers to the US only. So while I would happily back this one, this time delivery limits means I will have to pass this one.

The Messenger Contents
Lots of things to puzzle through. You can have your own consipracy room in no time!

But if you are in the US and you enjoy escape rooms, check out the Kickstarter – this might fit into your library nicely!

So something I can look forward to – Burnout Paradise Remastered is coming to the Switch!

Burnout is a great arcade driving series and one I miss. While I haven’t played much of the remaster on the PS4, I enjoyed cruising around Paradise City on my PS3. 

My biggest complaint is that I got tired of hearing Guns and Roses every time I fired it up!

Burnout Paradise is a game that lets you explore the world and drive at ridiculous speeds. The driving is very arcade-like in feel – floor the accelerator and let rip!

The remastered edition comes with all DLC, meaning you can play with a massive selection of vehicles from the start. I don’t know how multiplayer will fare on the Switch, but I don’t play much online multiplayer anyway. So this will be a way for me to kick back on my lunch break/in front of the TV, and just enjoy some irresponsible antics.

If you do want to play against other racers, maybe hold off for formal reviews on how the Switch handles online gaming. Or look at grabbing Burnout Paradise Remastered on PlayStation, Xbox or PC.

Come June 19, I believe this will be another great addition to my Switch library.

What about you? Is there a Kickstarter you think I missed and should be excited about? Or something else coming up that you think I should look at?

Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Luigi’s Mansion 3 Review

Luigi's Mansion 3 Cover
Released 2019
Platform Switch
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Developer Next Level Games (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1-2 (Campaign)
1-8 (Party Games)
Category Light Puzzler
Collection
Cute Horror Theme

Who you gonna call? Luigi! Wait, wrong franchise.

It’s an appropriate crossover, though. Luigi’s Mansion was a hit when released on the GameCube way back in 2002 (2001 for Japan). I got to play it in early 2019 when re-released on the DS. I say play it, as I started playing but never finished it. By then, the Switch was becoming my portable console of choice and other games called.

But even then, I knew Luigi’s Mansion 3 was coming. I got to pick up my copy when I got back from PAX Aus last year. And a couple of weeks ago, I finally got to enjoy it 🙂

So what is Luigi’s Mansion?

The series has Luigi somehow trapped in a situation where he needs to capture ghosts and save his friends from King Boo. Professor E. Gadd helps him in this by providing Luigi with a Pultergust – a vacuum that can capture the ghosts. Along there way there are collectables you need like keys to progress in the story. Eventually, you will work your way to King Boo and set everything right 🙂

The plot isn’t any more profound than this in any of the games. You don’t play Luigi’s Mansion for the riveting story. Luigi’s Mansion is a 3D light puzzle and collection game, and a whole lot of fun. That’s why you play it 🙂

OK, so what about Luigi’s Mansion 3?

You start the game on a bus with Mario, Peach and some Toads. Luigi has won a holiday at a new hotel, and everyone is looking forward to a well earned holiday.

Things go south quickly, and Luigi is the only one not captured in a portrait. Fleeing in a way only Luigi can, he lucks into Professor E. Gadd’s car. Armed with the Poltergust, Luigi then sets out to rescue Mario and all.

You need to get up to the top level of the hotel, but the elevator buttons have been removed. Gameplay wise, this means you have to solve the puzzles of each individual floor before beating the boss. Defeating the boss gains you another elevator button, and eventually, you unlock all the levels.

Welcome to the Last Resort
Everything looks like paradise when you arrive at The Last Resort

Unique Levels? Isn’t it a hotel?

You are in a hotel, but plenty of hotels are built around themes. Instead of having say the Disneyland Hotel with rooms tailored to different characters, the hotel in Luigi’s Mansion takes things further.

The lower levels and first few floors are standard kinds of floors. They look like most high-class hotels. Shopping, Lobby, Restaurant, that kind of thing. But as you continue to go higher, the levels take on their own themes.

Garden floors that have multiple levels, Film Studios, a Museum, even a dessert. You don’t have too long to get bored of any level. This is one of Luigi’s Mansions strengths and a weakness – the games are not very long.

Garden out of Control
The first 'strange' level is a multi level gardening nightmare

So how does a vacuum let you capture ghosts?

Simple, you vacuum them up! The ghosts themselves aren’t exactly keen on this idea. You flash them with your flashlight to expose their hearts, then you can catch them in your vacuum. Once you have them like this, but they try their best to get away from you.

When this happens, you need to pull away from them. This drains the ghost’s health, but do it long enough, and you can get a firm hold on it. Once you do, you can slam the ghost around. When you have them like this, you can slam it into other ghosts, using them as a club.

Capturing Ghosts
Watching the boss ghosts finally get caught is always fun

That sounds like it would get boring.

It does, but Luigi’s Mansion doesn’t have you doing the same thing for too long. Mostly you are exploring the floor looking for a key to get into new areas. Combat like this is all through the game, but it’s not a constant activity.

There are only a few types of ghost in the game, but they get tricky as you continue. They start wearing sunglasses, for example, so the light doesn’t affect them. This turns new encounters into mini-puzzles that need to be solved as well.

Fair enough, but just collecting elevator buttons doesn’t sound like a lot.

You need to collect elevator buttons to get through the story. But that isn’t the only thing you can hunt for in the game.

There is a bunch of cash hidden in the hotel. The more you collect, the higher your score at the end of the game. I spent a bit of time vacuuming everything and ended up with just over $80,000 collected. This gave me an A rank.

Elevator Button Acquired
Game progress is marked in how many buttons you have collected so far

With this kind of ranking system, there is usually an elusive S rank. No one is reported to have this, so I am not sure if it exists in Luigi’s Mansion 3. But if I was to replay the game, it gives me something to aim for.

There are also six gems hidden in each level. Collecting all of these gives you a sparkly plunger. Each gem is uniquely shaped based on the floor’s theme, and finding the first one got a smile out of me each time.

Once you have cleared a level, you can also go back and try and find a Boo hidden on each level. I found a couple when the mechanic was introduced but didn’t spend a lot of time hunting them down. Each Boo has a pun name. Some made me laugh, some made me groan, so the puns were spot on 🙂

Well, until I got to the second last floor. Then I went back and spent about an hour getting the boos and any gems I missed. The beauty of both collectables is that they are entirely optional. If you do decide to hunt them down, it doesn’t add much to the playtime, but it never got dull looking for them either.

Gem Display
You have standard collectibles as well.

What about the second all green Luigi? I have seen him on the cover.

This is a new mechanic introduced in Luigi’s Mansion 3. The bright green fella is Gooigi. As I was playing solo, I could use him to solve puzzles by switching control between Luigi and Gooigi.

You can also play Luigi’s Mansion with a friend. One player plays as Luigi, the other as Gooigi. If you are playing with two players, I would suggest the more experienced player plays as Luigi. Gooigi has health, but if he ‘dies’ he can be respawned very quickly. If Luigi runs out of health, it’s game over.

Gooigi taking center stage
Taking control of two characters can be a challenge, but opens up lots of puzzle possibilities

The biggest thing I grappled with in Luigi’s Mansion 3 was the controls. Mostly I could work around the sometimes overly helpful control system, except for one mandatory area.

There is a level with a lot of water that has you floating in a duck-shaped floatie. You turn left and right to pick a direction and suck or blow with the poltergust to go forward and backwards.

Going through the level, this was a little annoying but not too bad. The real hassle was with the boss fight and is the only time I stopped playing out of frustration.

B2 - the water level
While fun initially, this levels boss fight was very frustrating

Speaking of multiplayer, there are also two other games you can play – ScareScraper and ScreamPark. These are competitive and cooperative player modes to play as well. These are fun diversions, but I haven’t tried any of them yet. Not because I am not interested in trying them, I just haven’t had the chance.

Who should play Luigi’s Mansion? It doesn’t sound like a lot of game.

This is one of those questions that I get a lot but sometimes have trouble understanding. There are more narrative-driven games and games with better graphics. Not that Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks terrible, it’s just no Red Dead Redemption 2 for example.

After coming off the 80ish hour Final Fantasy XV, the relatively short 20 hour run through of Luigi’s Mansion 3 was a great palate cleanser. The puzzles are engaging without being harsh. The length of the game meant I could always be progressing. I didn’t have hundreds of side quests to distract me.

If you want to sit down for a serious gaming session, Luigi’s Mansion 3 isn’t the game. But to just sit down and pick up a fun experience that keeps you engaged, it’s just about perfect.

Just about perfect?

Every game has one big downside for me. The controls never quite seemed to work the way I expected them to. There are some motion aspects where you can tip your controls to adjust the height of what you are aiming at. This isn’t too bad, but it did take a bit of getting used to.

Once I had the boss fight worked out though, it only took me two more attempts to get through it. It wasn’t the end of the world and didn’t reduce my enjoyment overall, but if I had to pick on something, this level is the only frustrating part for me.

Overall Thoughts

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a great in-between game. If I had started expecting a long story-driven game, I would have been disappointed. Instead, you get a medium length light puzzle game with just enough elements to never get bored overall.

While I haven’t played any of the multiplayer games, I do appreciate their inclusion. It does help justify the full retail price for a short solo experience.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • Light hearted game play that is still engaging
  • Good balance between exploring and combat
  • Extends campaign with multiplayer party games

Cons

  • Controls can be a little tricky
  • Campaign is a short for the asking price
JohnHQLD