At first glance, it’d be easy to think that Card Shark was simply about playing cards. And you know what? In many ways it is, except you’re not there to PLAY cards; instead, you’ll be performing all sorts of tricks and schemes as a way to CHEAT through games of cards. It’s as devious as it sounds, but makes for a very clever and unique experience that I loved being a part of.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Card Shark takes place in France in the 1700s, with players taking on the role of a mute young man who helps the scheming Comte de Saint Germain win a game of cards by cheating. You’ll be serving drinks at the table that the game is being played at, all whilst signalling what cards his opponents have… simple, right? Well, it should be, except things go sideways and you end up as a murder suspect, leaving you on the run alongside Comte de Saint Germain as you continue your swindling ways. With plenty of unsuspecting opponents to trick and a story that brings with it plenty of depth and intriguing turns, I found myself wholly invested in the tale.

Now I know what you’re thinking: how do I cheat in cards in a video game? Well, Card Shark introduces plenty of innovative little ideas to keep the experience fresh and varied, with players having to utilise their memory, complete small mini-games, and keep their eye on the prize in order to stay one step ahead of their mark. Cheating is often the antithesis of being skilful, but believe me, it’s a fine art form in Card Shark that’ll take a lot of practice and skill to pull off.

“There’s always this thrilling sense of tension to be found that PERFECTLY reflects how it feels to try and get away with cheating in games – if you’re a fan of pulling off tricks like robbing the bank in Monopoly or slipping extra cards into a game of Poker, you’ll LOVE Card Shark…”

For example, the first trick you learn sees you carefully pouring a drink whilst glancing at your opponent’s hand, meaning you’ve got to keep an eye on how much drink you’re pouring whilst also memorising the suit of cards that they have. After this, you have to perform a cleaning motion on the table using a cloth, with the direction you clean signifying what cards your opponent has. When pouring the drink, your mark will notice if you pour too little, too much, or if you pour it too slow, but if you concentrate on it too much, you’ll get less time to actually look at their cards – it’s a balancing act that demands finesse and care, but that also sees you having to multi-task and remember exactly what you’ve seen.

It takes a LOT of effort to be an efficient cheat in cards, with Card Shark really putting players through their paces to fleece their opponents. There are a ton of different ways to cheat too, with all of the tricks of the trade learnt and utilised as you progress on your adventure. Admittedly, it can be a little overwhelming to learn and remember them all, but the in-game tutorials ensure that you’ll get a proper chance to get to grips with them before you’re thrown into the action. They’re all clever and fun to use though, with the variety on offer ensuring that no swindle ever gets boring across the card-cheating escapade.

Of course, even the BEST card cheats can be caught at times, with a suspicion meter in place that’ll build up as you cheat your way through games. Take too long performing your tricks or give away too many clues that you’re cheating and the meter will fill up. When it’s full? Well, the results can be grisly, with PLENTY of deaths suffered if you’re not as swift as you need to be. It turns out folk in the 1700s didn’t take kindly to cheating and will happily shoot you down if they catch you…

Check out some screenshots down below:

It all comes together to make for an experience that demands skill and memory (and that can sometimes be a bit stressful), but that ultimately feels incredibly rewarding when you pull off the long con. There’s nothing else quite like Card Shark out there, with the cleverly implemented cheating mechanics sure to keep players enthralled as they pull off each exciting trick. Sure, there are some missteps, especially when you cost yourself a game by accidentally making a mistake at the end and have to go through it all again, but the sheer satisfaction of outsmarting your rivals ensures that it never becomes frustrating. There’s always this thrilling sense of tension to be found that PERFECTLY reflects how it feels to try and get away with cheating in real-life games – if you’re a fan of pulling off tricks like robbing the bank in Monopoly or slipping extra cards into a game of Poker, you’ll LOVE Card Shark

Not only does Card Shark feel great to play, but it also just so happens to look fantastic. The lovely hand painted visuals feel befitting of the 1700s French setting and also bring an elegant flair to the experience that complements the unique gameplay. It’s a unique look that helps ensure that Card Shark’s world will remain memorable long after playing.

Card Shark Review

Card Shark offers a unique and clever take on cheating in card games, and believe me, it makes for a REALLY fun and varied experience. Between all of the tricks you learn, the surprisingly intriguing narrative, the brilliant visual style, and the sheer thrill of simply not getting caught, there’s loads to enjoy about the game. Sure, it can be a bit frustrating when things don’t go your way and you have to re-play games all over again, but the variety it offers and the overwhelming tension of each con ensures that Card Shark never stops being a blast to play.

Developer: Nerial
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC