Connect with us


Card Shark Proves That Swindling Can Be Fun

Card Shark may just be the perfect mixture of card playing, deception, and wine pouring that the industry didn’t know it needed.



Card Shark Preview

In Card Shark, it’s your goal to cheat, and cheating is fun.

Goomba Stomp was fortunate enough to try our luck with a preview of the latest ambitious and intriguing offering from Devolver Digital and Nerial, and its preview has left us ready for more deception (and wine pouring).

In Card Shark, you are an 18th-century mute youth under the auspicious wing of the wily Comte St. Germain. You traipse from parlor to parlor, bilking aristocrats while unraveling some grander mysteries, all set against a gorgeous art style and intriguing story.

The gameplay in Card Shark is relatively straightforward but wholly original. Interestingly enough, you are not playing cards at all, and frankly you only need the most cursory knowledge of any kind of card game in order to play. Instead, each hand that you sit in on involves a series of what are essentially mini-games that amount to ornate systems for fooling your opponents.

Card Shark
Image: Devolver Digital

Each setup for tricking your opponents is unique, and as you move forward you’re learning more and more techniques like “The Disheveled Gatherer” or “The Indiscreet Thief.” As you’re schooled in the arts of deception, you collect a library of strategies to reference. But while each encounter is its own novelty, the techniques often build upon one another as your ambitions to steal unfold further. 

In the early game, you learn the ropes by balancing the act of pouring wine and peeking at your opponent’s hand, all the while being careful to neither over or under pour (these aristocrats like their wine.) From there, various systems play out for signaling suits and cards to your co-conspirator. Other twists and turns involve stepping away to “get more wine” and marking or setting decks or shuffles.  Still more sleights emerge, always keeping you on your aristocratic toes.

The controls for executing these deceits are tied to timing and memory, and they are all based upon real ways to cheat at cards. Pulled together, it’s a unique and exciting feel. Initially, it’s rather easy to pull off the tricks, but the challenges spike quickly, and you feel both the pressure and the rush of a well done cheat as the game dances forward.

Card Shark
Image: Devolver Digital

There are stakes at hand, too, as you can go bankrupt or even die, forced to face death herself in a hand to win back your seat at the table.

Card Shark feels great, and on top of its unique gameplay is some stunning presentation values from all corners of the table. Drawing from a kind of cartoon-like reinterpretation of the Renaissance, each animation and environment thus far is carefully and beautifully realized, featuring a sweet mixture of tightly drawn characters who are thoughtfully animated set against broadly painted architecture that looks perfect. Paired with some truly sumptuous original music, peppy and thoughtful dialogue, and a surprising and intriguing storyline from the jump, what we have are the makings of a game unlike anything we’ve seen, which is always most welcome.

The first few hours of Card Shark are thrilling and we can’t wait to see more. Who knew cheating could be this much fun? This fascinating and beautifully-presented new game from Devolver has us ready to take down the aristocracy, one hand at a time.

Marty Allen is an artist, writer, and creative producer who lives in Brooklyn. Marty loves to write about video games, pop culture, and all sorts of things. He's written a pile of books and made a bunch of art and songs, but mostly he just plays Animal Crossing and eats watermelon.