copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

Poker Night 2



Rati ng:



Impact: Irritating

First, a brief remark on my poker background seems appropriate. I played poker a few times in my life with friends and that was so long ago that, going into this game, I did not even remember the rules of the standard poker let alone Texas Hold’em or Omaha Hold’em, which are the 2 games available in Poker Night 2. So I was going in with a clean slate, mostly to play a relaxing game in a 3D environment.



GAMEPLAY


Poker Night 2 puts brings you to the Inventory, a cute little underground poker establishment, where you can play against 4 AI characters: Sam from the Sam & Max franchise, Brock Samson from the Venture Bros show, Ash Williams from the Evil Dead franchise and Claptrap from Borderlands. Additionally, GLADOS from Portal plays the dealer (a great choice!) and a few other characters make an appearance but do not play.


As already mentioned, the two available games are Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hold’em. The options are very barebone. There is no difficulty setting and even saving the game is handled automatically. There is no multiplayer or LAN.


You play the game with fake money and as you win tournaments you can receive a number of rewards, besides the money. The basic one consists of tokens: these are points which you can spend to unlock new cards, table covers and chips. The 2nd one consists of trophies that you can win from the characters after you achieve several randomly set mini-goals during a tournament, like betting all-in. These trophies do not seem to do anything – just there for achievement’s sake. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you can occasionally unlock items for the games Borderlands 2 and Team Fortress 2…which is great….if you play those games…which I do not. And I wonder how many other Poker Night 2 players are going to reap these benefits, especially considering you first have to overcome two of Poker Night’s main issues.


The 1st problem is that Poker Night 2, just like the original Poker Night and other Poker games that have unique eccentric characters, eventually succumbs to repetitiveness. The first time you hear a funny conversation between the characters you laugh; the 2nd time you hear it you just proceed with thinking about your cards; the 3rd time you hear it starts getting on your nerves. This is especially true because the game does not seem to allow you to skip the small-talk and you have to wait until the characters are done to continue playing. The characters are somewhat funny and well written, in a cheesy kind of way, but this does not save them for long.


The 2nd problem, and the main reason why I will not be playing this game any longer, relates to the wonders that the AI manages to pull out of the cards to its advantage. Look, it is worth pointing out that this reviewer is bad at math and is a sore loser, so it is entirely possible I have underestimated the mathematical realities of chance. However, it is equally worth pointing out that within the 1st day of playing, the AI characters managed to get all kinds of luck in the showdown including 2 straights and a flush in a single showdown and continued to display strange behavior, largely in their own favor. The existence of this issue is further indicated by the fact that the odds only started shifting into AI’s favor after the first two tournaments, once the extra bonuses were introduced. This has been also been noted by other people in online forums. It therefore appears that the game has an increasing difficulty level that cannot be adjusted and is not handled well.



GRAPHICS:


Poker games in general do not invest much into visuals and rarely have 3D elements, which always seemed strange to me considering that part of the experience of poker is the relaxing atmosphere and social interaction with the other players. In that perspective, Poker Night 2 has relatively good graphics. The Inventory has a bar, a little stage, a few tables and it has a few nice details that change from game to game, like the stage background. The whole thing has a cozy lighting to it. The characters look better than they looked in their respective games and it is nice that the characters retain their original visual style. Having said that, Poker Night 2 is not a good looking game by modern game standards. For that matter, none of the games from which these characters originate looked good to begin with (eye of the beholder notwithstanding).



SOUND:


The characters are voiced by the original voice actors from the source material, which earns developers bonus points for effort, but one must wonder if that effort is justified for an average player who may know one or two of them but is unlikely to know them all. This has been an issue with other poker games that bet their money on celebrity guests. The celebrities end up being too small to get a sufficient slice of the public interested in their repetitive banter. Having said that, the voice work is good and there are no issues with the rest of the sounds.



PERFORMANCE:


There are a few graphical glitches. Sometimes, when the camera cut to one of the characters betting all-in, the chips would disappear and some of the textures were glitching out once or twice, but overall there are no game-breaking issues. The level of visuals is relatively low so if you live in a developed country then chances are your computer is good enough to run this game on maximum.



CONCLUSION


If you do not mind loosing and you just want to sit back and play with some charming game characters for a few hours before that experience gets old then Poker Night 2 can do no harm. At the time of writing the game is on sale for only 2 Euros on Steam (down from 5 I believe) so you can hardly go wrong with that. However, if you are actually serious about playing poker then I would not bet on this game.



The only reason this game does not get smitten by my hammer of justice is because of its price.