It's been years since I've encountered a horse racing game of any sort. The last one I actually laid my hands on was one developed by Tecmo named Gallop Racer 2006 for the PlayStation 2. I'm a bit of horse nerd, so I've been biding my time waiting for another one to come my way, but haven't met much luck until I got word of Pocket Card Jockey.
Pocket Card Jockey puts you in the shoes of an amateur jockey that wants to become the best jockey, except for the fact that he/she is actually a terrible jockey. To give you a good example of this, the jockey got on a horse and had no idea how to get the horse going (I think you might be in the wrong line of work here buddy). This horse racing game is developed by Game Freak which is best known for being the primary developer of the Pokemon series. Now you're probably thinking, that's a lot to live up to. Well, let's see if Pocket Card Jockey is worth your time, shall we?
Pocket Card Jockey isn't what you'd normally expect from a horse racing game. Your job doesn't revolve around steering your horse around the track and driving them towards the home stretch. (Actually it might have been that way if your jockey didn't suck so bad at being a jockey.) This game strays from the norm and has you playing solitaire to win your races which is both different and a nice change from what one would normally expect of a horse racing game. I'm going to be honest here, I've never played solitaire in my entire life and never thought I would have to. When I heard that this game was going to be solitaire based I wanted to shy away from it, but the thought of having a horse racing game again kept me interested.
You'll have a little helper horse (a horse named Horse Off-course, of course) to give you helpful hints and tips throughout the game and after your races, but you always have the option to skip his dialogue if you don't want to hear him babble on. Anyway, the solitaire aspect of the game is fairly simple. You find the next lower or greater number to one of the cards already out in play. You are timed and the higher the grade of race, the less time you will have. If you manage to clear the board before the timer runs out, your horse will get a boost to his energy. If you have cards left over, it'll slow your horse down and you may end up with a 'run away' horse on the track. The game is fairly innovative by incorporating stats for your horses that can be improved by training them or you can buy boosts from the shop with your hard earned cash. The graphics are colorful and pleasing to the eye and I found myself loving the over sized horses with their large heads and their tiny jockeys as they galloped down the track.
There should always be more to a horse racing game than just the sport itself. Horse racing revolves around turning horses into champions and then coming back around and having said champions produce foals that could go on to potentially become champions themselves. Game Freak did not leave this aspect out of this game as it proves to also be a well rounded horse simulation. When you retire your speedy steed from the track you are able to pair them with another horse, and the pair will result in a foal that you'll eventually be able to train and race yourself.
It's a good thing that the horses can have diverse varieties besides a change of color. Some horses will have different racing gear (how in the world a horse is born with a blinker hood on is beyond me) and can even be unusual colors like blue (because that's totally not a cause for concern). So, you can train, race, breed and name your racehorses what more could you possibly ask for?
One thing in particular that I like about Pocket Card Jockey is that it's not focused on any one gender. You want to be Mr. Jockey? Go for it. Ms. Jockey? Super. Horse racing is the sport of kings and queens and should be treated as such.
The graphics are colorful, appealing to the eye and not too drastic. Some of the horses have eyes that stare straight into your soul and honestly scares the ever living crap out of me. However, this game is able to give you the same thrill as some might have when they're watching the actual horse races and waiting for their favorite horse to cross the finish line.
Game Freak was right to release this game to the US merely two days before the Kentucky Derby. So yes, go for gold (you should always aim for gold) and you don't even have to leave the comfort of your home because this game is available solely on the Nintendo 3DS. This quirky little racing game will appeal to the royal introvert inside all of us and is worthy of 8 out of 10 stars by me for the simple fact that I can be a damn good jockey right from my pocket.