This week in Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee Reviews card shark and Post: brain damaged.
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What’s up with the indie sphere and card games these days? A few notable card battlers have come and gone, and tabletop chic seems to be all the rage now. Like last week’s Neon White, which presents all of its weapons as cards, although the only way a tabletop would come close to this game is to use it as a horse. I just feel like the concept of card battle video games is inherently crappy. Card games and board games were invented because someone wanted to imagine a big, great fight between two scary dragons and cards were the best solution available at the time to visualize this. But now we actually have the technology to visualize a really big fight between two scary dragons and we’re using it to represent the damn cards. It’s like using a vacuum to shoo away family pets while licking the carpet clean. And things reached a new level of weirdness last week when I played Card Shark, a new indie game about card games where you’re not actually playing card games. I assumed you did it based on the description on the Steam page, which is why I was a little hesitant to try it. I got fed up playing video poker when I hit the quickload button on the first Leisure Suit Larry game.
But no, the Steam site is just bad at conveying what you’re actually doing in Card Shark. It’s a hard concept to sum up, but come on. “Adventure game?” As always, that’s about as informative as telling us it comes in a box. In truth, Card Shark is a collection of minigames revolving around a variety of card cheating techniques. A few crappy ones that are little more than quick events, but otherwise a rich hodgepodge of challenges based on observation, memory, and honed skills as you use a variety of methods to stack decks and peek at your opponent’s hand . Let’s skip the actual playing of the card game. You do your little cheaty thing, and then it comes straight to you shuffling coins, as if to say, “Obviously you won, you cheated, you also breathed in and out the whole time, and we hadn’t.” neither does the need to spell it.” Again, it doesn’t really play like a card game, it plays more like something halfway between Papers Please and Wario Ware. Each story mission consists of learning a new sequence of mini-games from your mentor, practicing them a few times, and then making them real under some stressful time pressure.
Because the fools you take to the dry cleaners will smell a rat smell if you hold the card you deal them over the rather conspicuous mirror on the table for more than thirty seconds. But history is the main attraction here. It’s set in 18th-century France, so presumably the constant stench of cheap perfume and excrement is another thing the game doesn’t want to spell, and you’re a mute farm boy who starts out with nothing but a natural talent for dexterity and a Assassin’s Creed protagonist, who tends to bump into famous historical figures, becomes the apprentice of a feared aristocratic con man and becomes embroiled in a transnational web of intrigue between various powerful figures, which constantly turns into card games for a series of highly fictional ones Reasons. “Yes, I’ll tell you what I know about the King’s mistress scandal, but only if you beat me in a card game first.” for the horrible crime for which I swore vengeance to be brought to justice quickly and brutally, but anyway, let’s play some cards.” I like that the game never says what specific deck of cards someone is playing. Perhaps the authors were unable to do the research. I’m just assuming it’s Yu-Gi-Oh.
All in all, I really like Card Shark as I have to sweaty deck stacking while the suspicion meter goes up and you forget for a moment how adding works and creates a great escalating tension. However, the gameplay doesn’t have much depth. You learn a mini-game sequence for each story mission, and then never do that particular one again unless you do the optional card games for extra money, but there’s no use for cash other than to give it all away to the poor, and all the poor will do some dialogues change at the end, the ungrateful mucker jerks. Maybe we could have paid them to stand in front of the window and make distracting monkey noises while we did the trick ruffle shuffle. The main thing I don’t like about Card Shark is its lack of substance, which means I’ll have to somehow find an even weaker game to review for the rest of this video. Hur be dur be dur be dur – oh, here we go: Postal Brain Damaged. Postal is a franchise with a certain history. Whenever the mainstream media decided that Mortal Kombat was at the root of all society’s ills, there was always one sector of the industry that passive-aggressively taunted them by making games rife with all the unwarranted needless violence that’s going on the critics presented.
So the Postal games are slightly jerky pseudo-immersive sims that are the video game equivalent of a bumper sticker of Calvin having a naughty pee on, stuffed with violence and profanity to the point of utter meaninglessness, and then dressed with a bit of pop-culture reference humor that’s about aged, as well as Haley Joel Osment floating in a yogurt vat. But in this day and age, video games make so much money for scum that it’s no longer politically convenient to scapegoat them, and not weeing no matter how much naughty pee on cardboard cutouts of morality crusaders has the power to shock anyone, now that American schools are getting shot more times than the green beans are being reheated in the cafeteria, and the official government response is “a pitcher in the camera like Jim in the office” every time it happens. As such, Postal Brain Damaged takes the franchise in the only logical direction: total and utter nihilism. So they dropped the whole slightly tormented immersive sim business and just made a retro-style boomer shooter because Steam only has enough of it to keep you busy for a conservative ten or eleven decades.
The premise is Jeff Lebowski meets The Punisher via Beavis and Butthead Postal Dude falls asleep and has to navigate an unsubtle satire of modern society in a sort of Doom Eternal meets Psychonauts fever dream. And while the visuals are striking, little is done to improve upon the retro shooter model, and it even brings back some of the genre’s classic fuckups: a system where you save powerups and choose when to use them ends hoarding six fiery pees I never use potions because it takes about five button presses to bring them out, and I’m busy avoiding getting pooped on by a terribly caustic satire of the American consumer. Anything calling itself a boomer shooter whose rocket launcher explosions have the awe-inspiring feel of a used condom smacking the wall of your grandmother’s mailbox needs to get off the stage and rethink its life. Postal Brain Damaged is a game that will become obsolete very quickly on several levels – the pixelated FPS trend will be over any day now as everyone starts to get nostalgic for PS3 era cover shooters with a bloom lighting system, it looks like we washed our contact lenses in bleach. And then there’s the creaking reference humor about the coronavirus and Elon Musk and who the heck is kidding about furry conventions anymore? Why don’t you fuck Rebecca Black while you’re at it? What? Oh, ask your mum.