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Pokémon creators’ brilliant mashup of horse racing and solitaire is coming to iPhone

Game Freak’s cult classic Pocket Card Jockey hits Apple Arcade this month

Cute race horses charge down the track over a colorful logo reading Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! Image: Game Freak/Apple
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

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.

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