February 5, 2023

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‘Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On!’ Review – Apple Arcade’s New Killer App?

Having gotten a Nintendo 3DS years after the system launched and having never owned a...

Having gotten a Nintendo 3DS years after the system launched and having never owned a Nintendo DS before, I enjoyed checking out the massive library of games from Japan that I missed. Barring the multiple RPGs I played, there were quite a few Nintendo eShop exclusives that were constantly recommended. One of them was Pokémon developer Game Freak’s Pocket Card Jockey. Pocket Card Jockey blended elements of simulation games, horse racing, and solitaire to be something I never thought would work on paper, but it did. I only played a few hours of it when I bought it on 3DS, but loved what I played.

Earlier today, Game Freak launched Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! () for Apple Arcade devices as the newest game on the service. Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! is a blend of a remake and a port of the Nintendo 3DS game for modern devices. I’ve been playing a pre-release build of Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! on my iPhone and iPad for review, but wanted to also try the macOS and tvOS versions for this review, since this is the first time we have a Pocket Card Jockey game on non-portable platforms as well.

Since I didn’t put in as much time into the 3DS version as I had liked over the years, I can only comment on the similarities or differences in the early parts of the game. This Apple Arcade review will also focus mostly on the ports rather than the game itself, which is very similar to what I played on 3DS albeit with a few changes and one new feature.

If you aren’t familiar with Pocket Card Jockey at all, it is a card game that blends in simulation, solitaire, horse racing, strategy, and more. Initially, Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! might seem a bit complex with its mechanics, but its gameplay loop is sublime once it clicks. If you don’t enjoy solitaire at all though, this isn’t for you. I enjoy seeing new takes on tried and tested gameplay, and Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! feels like a game that was always designed for mobile, rather than an enhanced version of a portable console release.

In Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On!, you spend time in races or in the simulation aspects. The former involves different phases. These include the solitaire, strategy, and resource management. The simulation aspects are quite deep, and you will see them continue to expand the more you play. Having played some Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! daily for about a week on different devices, I’m very pleased by the newest addition to Apple Arcade. The structure of Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! allows for seemingly infinite replay value.

When it comes to the controls, Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! is very much a touch-focused game. While it does have macOS and tvOS versions since it is an Apple Arcade Original, those feel like afterthoughts. They even say “tap” instead of “click” for macOS. The tvOS version on Apple TV forces you to pair a controller to play Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On!, but you use it to simulate a touch cursor with the left stick and press the confirm button to click. The interface here also mentions tapping instead of clicking or pressing a button. There is no controller support on iOS and iPadOS as of this writing. I tried three different controllers on my iPad Pro with no luck. The interface feels great on touch, but this is worth noting as some people who subscribe to Apple Arcade enjoy using controllers to play games.

Barring the change to 3D for the racing, Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! also has a new daily login system. This is something I expected given how the aim of this release is also to keep people playing the game and remaining subscribed to Apple Arcade. It isn’t a dealbreaker by any means, but something to keep in mind. I haven’t played the free-to-play iOS version of the game in Japan from years ago, so I’m not sure if this is a remnant of that release. There have also been a few changes to some aspects of the game from the 3DS version which you can read in my interview with Game Freak here.

I’ve praised Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! quite a bit, and while I love the transition the game has made from 3DS to modern iOS devices, I hope a future update can add a higher frame rate option. The races would be a lot nicer at 60fps or 120fps. I can’t imagine that is too much for modern iOS devices given the visuals on display. Barring that, Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! looks great and seamlessly syncs across devices.

While some of the technical issues are disappointing, Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! is an easy recommendation if you have an Apple Arcade subscription. The structure of the game perfectly suits the service, and I hope it gets updated over time to bring in new content and fix some of the issues. If you don’t have an Apple Arcade subscription yet but enjoyed Pocket Card Jockey on 3DS, this is the best reason to check the service out.