Devolver and Nerial join forces for an unmissable game that tells the art of cheating and the history of pre-revolutionary france.
Yet another demonstration of foresight on the part of Devolver, which launched on the publication of a unique title of its kind, capable – it must be said – of changing the cards on the table of an undergrowth of increasingly experimental and unexpected development. Card Shark was one of the crown jewels of LudoNarraCon 2022 (here the special dedicated to LudoNarraCon 2022) but the demo published then had left the public with the desire to know more. The complete game was not only able to meet those great expectations but also exceeded them, thanks to a narrative sector which, on paper, seemed to be a secondary element. The truth is that a video game like Card Shark has really never been seen before and now we are ready to justify this statement.
A mute scullery boy, a count and Enlightenment France
Card Shark tells the story of a poor voiceless scullery boy who, in the inn where he works, crosses his fate with that of the Count of Saint-Germain, a well-known cheater who makes ends meet by cheating anyone who makes the ill-advised choice to sit at the table with him for a game of cards. The two join forces in what initially seems to be a sort of personal revenge against those who have had everything from life, a sort of crusade against the wallets of the richest.
Over time, however, the protagonist’s journey alongside the Count of Saint-Germain turns into a crossing of Enlightenment France, where every card game systematically becomes a revolutionary act and a key to the climb to a monarchical system in crisis and on the brink of abyss. Card Shark is not a card game, but a journey in which cards they are a tool to set in motion a political machination aimed at changing the whole world forever, carried on by a pair of characters as messed up as few and totally out of the box. This is how what initially seemed to be just a sequence of more or less dangerous stunts slowly becomes the story of two ordinary people grappling with a country that is turning into a powder keg.
It is thus that the nobles who have fallen into the habit of gambling slowly give way at the table to historical figures such as Voltaire and Rousseau, that the ransom becomes a revolution and that a marked card becomes the key to get in touch with the members of the high nobility for unmasking its darkest secrets.
Card Shark is one European history lesson told through the art of scama mocking gimmick that implies that the old continent and its political and social dynamics are the result of deceit and abuse and that can therefore be told only by talking about cheaters and scammers.
Quick Event Scam
The Card Shark game system is, in essence, extremely simple and divided into two sections that influence each other. The narrative part, which sees the protagonist and the Count traveling to various key points of Enlightenment France, unfolds through a collection of small dialogues that reveal the background
of the society of the time and of the most illustrious historical figures, all while the duo of protagonists are practicing relentlessly to improve their cheating skills. It is within these sections that it will be possible to learn the twenty-eight techniques useful for plucking fools who will dare to challenge us at cards, distributed according to an order of increasing difficulty. It starts from the most classic of the three card games up to complex and layered combinations of tricks that will allow you to control the outcome of each hand with extreme precision. It is a segment with doubly didactic purposes, which on the one hand it is meant to be a history lesson and on the other hand it is meant to be an advanced course in scams with the cards that transform each deck into a sort of white weapon to be exploited to one’s advantage.
The heart of the experience is revealed only once you sit down at the table: the mechanics of card Shark are based entirely on a rather simple interaction with the controller, in what are often simple Quick Times
Event in which to press the right combination of keys in the shortest possible time. This is where the genius of the Nerial team explodes in all its power, because the heart of Card Shark is not so much the desire to learn new subterfuges to put into practice, but more the need to make them playful. The focus therefore shifts from the correct management of the countless combinations of possible tricks in search of those adrenaline peaks that only cheating, hoping to win, can generate. The more time we spend handling cards, the more our opponents will become suspicious, to the point where we will be discovered and punished with death for our misdeeds. Here, Card Shark essentially lives on that unique thrill that slowly turns into a real addiction. It is no coincidence: Nicolai Troshinsky, artist and animator of the game, is a professional cheater and he wanted to make the game to convey exactly this to the public.
A unique video game
We are facing yet another unconventional title distributed by Devolver Digital, characterized by a unique concept and by a simply perfect artistic direction, capable of transporting the player inside pre-revolutionary France thanks to the synergy that is created between the splendid illustrations and the music that resounds in every environment.
It is an experience that shines in the way it teaches the player all his tricks, to the point that exactly like the mute protagonist we are going to check, we will gradually become more skilled and unsuspected. The indirect relationship that is created between gameplay and narrative, which hides more than one cryptic comment, is also perfectly fitting on the history and origin of modern societiesalthough the game revolves primarily around the joy of cheating for the sake of it.
It feels extremely powerful, especially in some of the more advanced sections where the outcome of a card game can influence the very course of the country’s history. On a narrative level, there are perhaps a couple of constraints related to the fact that it is sometimes a little strange to see people of all classes and ranks promise information in exchange for a hand of poker or tressette. Net of this, however, Card Shark is really one of the most interesting video games of the year, and deciding to ignore it would be an unforgivable crime.