What’s a great way to start a new year? Arriving at your desk to discover that an obscure game you love with a passion, but assumed everyone else had forgotten about, is coming back.
So it is with me and Pocket Card Jockey, a cult title by Game Freak, the creators of Pokémon. Pocket Card Jockey mashes up horse racing and solitaire — unaccountably, but to brilliant effect — and was first released in Japan in 2013, with a western release following in 2016. Now, Apple has announced that Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! is coming to its Apple Arcade subscription service on Jan. 20. That means an iOS release at minimum, with Apple TV and Mac also a possibility, but unconfirmed at this point.
Pocket Card Jockey is a horse-racing role-playing game in which you collect and breed a stable of cute, stubby-legged racing steeds, and ride them in bizarre but highly dramatic races where key moments are played out in quickfire rounds of solitaire. The game employs golf solitaire, a simple variant in which you clear a tableau by choosing cards of a value one higher or lower than the previous card. It is, improbably, very exciting.
Ride On! gives the races a 3D makeover which I’m not sure is quite as adorable as the original 2D illustrations, but I can live with it. Otherwise, it seems many of the original’s features are present and correct, including horse romance and breeding, tactical track positioning, on-track power-ups, and a substantial campaign.
Funnily enough, Pocket Card Jockey has appeared on iPhone before — it had a short-lived, Japan-only release on Apple’s smartphone in 2014. Mobile always seemed like a natural home for the game, so it’s a delight to see Game Freak bringing it back to phones.