Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! review: The winner's circle

Game Freak's cult 3DS title is now on the Nintendo Switch and it makes the transition just fine.

Game Freak

Game Freak first got its horses to the starting gate back in 2016 when it released Pocket Card Jockey on the Nintendo 3DS. It was noticeably different than the developer's previous work on Pokemon, but it's a game that proved to be fun in a totally different way. It's a game many were sad to see potentially lost forever after the 3DS eShop was shuttered, but thankfully Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! has galloped onto the Nintendo Switch and it's still as fun as a child's first pony ride.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course

Playing the opening solitaire hand in Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On

Source: Game Freak

The Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! story is delightful, if slightly off-the-wall. Players take on the role of an aspiring jockey. After getting trampled in Looney Tunes-like fashion, the main character is briefly dead, but is brought back to life by an angel with the condition that they must become a great jockey. The dialogue gets fairly silly from there and, before long, I was honestly skipping most of it to get to the game's meat and potatoes.

The main idea of the game is to race horses to victory, but the manner in which one does so is through standard games of solitaire. The faster one completes stacks, the better the player's horse will perform. Players can pick up energy, preserve stamina, and pick up different power-ups. Conversely, a horse will lose stamina and overall have less energy to work with if a solitaire timer runs out. Difficulty with each solitaire round will vary depending on where horses are positioned in-between hands.

There isn't too much to know about the racing itself other than knowing where to position one's horse and what to do when caught between opposing racers. Horses placed within a Comfort Zone put players in a position where they can complete tougher solitaire rounds for greater boosts. Managing horse positioning in relation to its stamina and energy level is the key to winning and the game does a good job in explaining this, though the tutorial can get long-winded. Even my wife, someone who loves solitaire, reached a point where she just wanted to get into the game. Once the game starts, however, it does dig its hooks in quickly.

Switching it up

Reaching the Winner's Circle in Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On

Source: Game Freak

The original Pocket Card Jockey was perfectly suited to a dual-screen interface. Without two screens to work with, Ride On! had to change things up slightly. The dual-screen interface that divided the visual horse race and playable solitaire component has been melded together into a single display. It's a seamless change and doesn't compromise any of what the original game great. Of course, a player's experience will vary depending on whether they're using Handheld Mode or TV Mode.

TV Mode utilizes an analog stick-guided cursor for both the solitaire rounds and for directing the horse to its next position. It's usable, but the input lag and slower cursor speed don't add up to a pleasant experience. Precision can also be a problem, especially when it comes to trying to position a horse in a narrow Comfort Zone area. I didn't misclick at any point, but it felt like I was losing precious seconds by trying to aim at the right spot. Handheld Mode, conversely, feels like the ideal way to play Ride On! Touch controls feel fast, responsive, and intuitive. It also helps that the gameplay loop of quick races mixed in with a few rounds of solitaire makes Ride On! a perfect on-the-go activity.

Photo finish

Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! needed a few tweaks to make the jump from 3DS to newer platforms, but the final result is a strong thoroughbred of a game. The move to Switch gave Game Freak a chance to update some of Pocket Card Jockey's presentation, updating character models to 3D versions of their original counterparts. Outside of that and the aforementioned changes to the game's visual component, Ride On! is the same Pocket Card Jockey fun offered by the original game. Unique prize-winning ponies like this game don't come along every day, so it's nice to see a new generation on Switch get a chance to take a ride.

This review is based on a Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher. Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! is available now on Nintendo Switch for $15.00 USD. It is also available via Apple Arcade. The game is rated E.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

  • Unique premise
  • Easy to pick up and play
  • Charming art style
  • Simple controls, especially in Handheld Mode
  • Jaunty tunes
  • Long-winded tutorial
  • Clunky cursor movement in TV Mode
From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 5, 2024 8:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! review: The winner's circle

    • reply
      March 5, 2024 7:48 PM

      This game is great.

      • reply
        March 5, 2024 8:39 PM

        My favorite version is on 3DS but this is the next best thing, especially now that the 3DS eShop is shut down. Great game either way

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