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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
- Smooth, quick gameplay
- No extraneous single-player elements
- Can play a whole ‘tournament’ in minutes
- Customisable game length
- Need to know how to play before going in
- Control system is fine, but not as intuitive as I would like
Until next time,