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Cool 104 Joker & Setline
  opened by paleface at 17:38:53 07/25/05  
  paleface [sys=DS; cat=Puzzle; loc=JPN]
A double-pack from Aruze, hated destroyers of the NGPC.
A crazy friend of mine, whom I shall call "Mr. Fox," tells me that Cool 104 Joker is a touch-screen redemption video game in Japan, and one of his favorites. In the arcade, it takes place on two screens, one of which has touch functionality, so porting it to the DS must have seemed quite natural.
A gambling game that is mostly luck and partly odds calculation and card-counting, Cool 104 Joker begins by offering you five cards, of which you have to discard one. Another card from the double-deck replaces the discard, and then you have to discard again. The trick is, you can only discard a card of the same suit or number as the one you discarded previously. So if you just discarded a three of Hearts, for instance, for your next discard you can choose only a Heart or a three.
The titular Joker is the exception to this. You get one Joker card, which serves as a wildcard. If you come down to a spot where you have only one possible discard, instead of counting on luck to replace that discard with a matching suit or number, you can call down the Joker. The Joker will replace your next discard, and once you discard the Joker, you can pick any other card as your next discard.
Because, at least early on, you often have several different choices for your discards, the game has a branching nature that offers the damning possibility of choice. When faced with several possible discards, you have to try to calculate which path will offer the greatest chance of continued discards. Card-counting skill would come in extremely handy here, especially later in the game.
If you get through all 104 cards, which Mr. Fox assures me is all but impossible, you win the grand prize, and you can probably burn the game in a bonfire as you dance about it naked. In the arcade, of course, you would enjoy bathing in a flood of redemption tokens. I only got up to 20, alas, but in normal play 15 or over is considered a "Win." Winning gives you points to spend on further hands. You can also place bets to increase your point pool, and these launch you into further card-based minigames, such as High/Low (the CPU picks two cards, shows one, and you have to guess if the next will have a higher or lower number).
There is just enough skill involved to make you feel like you can do better next time, and enough luck involved to keep you frustrated and coming back for more. It's not bad as far as dirty gambling games go.
I didn't mess with Setline much. It gives you a hexagonally-shaped hexgrid, and you place hex tiles criss-crossed by lines of differing color and thickness. I gather that you're supposed to place tiles next to each other in such a way that you form a solid line all the way across the grid, but this seems pretty darn hard.
Cool 104 has some pretty swirly simple 3D background elements, and the cards are easy to read. Not much in the way of fancy FX here though. Setline seems less ambitious in the graphics department, and comes off rather flat and boring to the eye. In both games, the input runs entirely by stylus.

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