Tag: poker

Game Review: Poker Night 2

I’ve been playing poker for most of my adult life. It’s not a regular thing for me – mostly at family gatherings or parties thrown by friends – but I know the game well enough to not completely embarrass myself, usually. Practice makes perfect, though, and a couple years ago Telltale Games provided a means to practice my game with Poker Night at the Inventory, allowing me the opportunity to throw down cards and chips with some familiar Internet characters. Did it need a sequel? No. Did it get one anyway? Yes.

Courtesy Telltale Games

The doors of the underground gaming establishment open once again to allow for a no-limit high-stakes poker tournament involving some faces you might recognize. Instead of just gaming culture, however, the scope of the invites has expanded somewhat. From the animated series Venture Brothers comes none other than Brock Samson, a quiet but intimidating presence at the table. Balancing the taciturn bodyguard is Borderlands 2‘s Claptrap, who’s vocabulizer seems to be stuck on ‘snark’ mode. Ash from Army of Darkness gives the little robot a run for his money, though, in addition to having any number of catch phrases at the ready. And last but never least is Sam of Sam & Max fame, who replaces his homicidal rabbit buddy at the table. And your dealer, in the interest of computerized fairness, is GLaDOS, from Portal.

If that line-up isn’t enough to get you to drop $6 US on this game immediately, here’s more incentive.

Texas Hold ‘Em, while iconic in terms of poker tournament play, is no longer your only option. The game of Omaha is also available. In case you don’t know, Omaha plays very similar to Hold ‘Em except each player is dealt 4 hole cards instead of two. A player can only use two of those hole cards to make the best hand possible. I feel like this game option is a bit more forgiving to beginners, as you have more options and opportunities to create a good hand, yet at the same time it can be confusing if you’re dealt an attractive-looking set of hole cards but can’t make the right hand work with only two of them. It’s one of the things that keeps the game fresh.

Courtesy Telltale Games

Your fellow players have their particular tells, some obvious and some subtle. This isn’t new, but the ability to make their tells more obvious and their playing more predictable or exploitable is. How, you ask? Buy them drinks. The lovely Mad Moxxi of Borderlands 2 is tending bar, and if you spend some tokens, won from playing or winning tournaments, she’ll bring some booze over to your opponents to loosen them up a bit. It adds a layer of strategy to your gameplay: at what point do you buy Ash that drink so he bets bigger and stops waiting to win on the river? In addition to the libations, tokens also unlock felts, cards, and chip designs that are part of each franchise represented by the game. Unlock a whole set and you’ll change the entire look of the Inventory. The apex of success is the bounty challenges. A random set of them are laid out for you at the start of a tournament. If you complete them all, you get the chance to win an item from one of your fellow players. Winning the item unlocks prizes in the games Team Fortress 2 and Borderlands 2. All from playing poker with some iconic characters who engage in witty banter. What’s not to love?

Functionally, Poker Night 2 is pretty flawless. The AI of its various moving parts seems pretty well implemented. I’ve only seen the occasional clipping issue. As much as I’ll get frustrated when a winning hand turns to a losing one thanks to a lucky draw on the river, that’s down to the nature of poker itself rather than anything the programmers did. Some of the conversations tend to repeat themselves, but this can be minimized by only playing a few tournaments at a time. Like most diversions of this nature, Poker Night 2 is best experienced in moderation.

Still, for its bargain basement price, great execution, and hilarious writing, I’d definitely recommend Poker Night 2. If you’re a fan of any of the characters mentioned, enjoy a good game of hold ’em, or just want the maximum bang for your entertainment buck, this is a fantastic deal.

Game Review: Poker Night at the Inventory

Courtesy Telltale Games

So, what can you do with $5 these days? Get a Happy Meal, or a footlong sub. Take a ride on a mass transit people-mover. Put just over a gallon of gasoline in your car.

Or, get yourself lots, and I mean lots, of entertainment.

On the surface, Poker Night at the Inventory sounds like something thought up as a cute little “what if” scenario. Simply, this is bunch of Internet favorites gathered together to play some no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em in a private, semi-secret club established as a holdout first against Prohibition, then the idea of games becoming shunned or banned. While some of us might simply sit around drinking and talking about how such a scenario might play out, Telltale Games took a break from their succession of point-and-click adventure entries that breathed new life into some neglected LucasArts franchises and made the scenario happen. It’s now available on Steam, and the results are simple, addictive and hilarious.

Courtesy Telltale Games
They saved you a seat.

The characters are, as I said, favorites of the Internet. First is Max, of the Sam & Max Freelance Police. Of the two, Max has always been the unhinged one. His tendency is to solve his problems with violence. The rabbit from Monty Python & the Holy Grail has nothing on the lagomorph, since the furry little slayer of knights never ran off at the mouth about how much he enjoys the taste of kneecaps. He’s here thanks to Telltale Games bringing him and his big canine partner back from the grave LucasArts dug for them in the 90s.

Next is StrongBad, of Homestar Runner. He first appeared courtesy of TellTale in his Cool Game for Attractive People. Apparently the only thing he got out of the game’s designers was “a recommendation for a cool hang-out.” He’s the shortest player at the table, but do not judge him by his size. Or the fact that he can hold his cards quite well despite the boxing gloves.

Taking a break from crushing tiny baby-men with bare hands, the Heavy of Team RED came to the Inventory after the Engineer showed him where it was. Apparently, destroying opponents in games of poker is just as satisfying as mowing them down with Sasha. Not only does he bring his distinctive voice and imposing presence, the Heavy also shares quite a bit about himself. You may just find out what his favorite movies are.

Last but certainly not least, Tycho of Penny Arcade may seem to be the most reasonable one at the table, but don’t be fooled. He brings not only his trusty 20-sided die but also portents of doom and his rapier-sharp rapid-fire wit. He rounds out your opponents nicely.

The dialog and interactions in this game are fantastic. They alone are worth the price of admission. And, really, they’re what you’re paying for. As a representation of Texas Hold ‘Em goes, it’s not going to set the world on fire. Max might, though, if I don’t wrap this review up quickly.

In contrast to a lot of Steam titles available, this is a relaxing and fun little enterprise. One-liners whip across the table as your opponents taunt one another and call you out to match their bets. Even when you’re not playing, say for example after Strong Bad went all in on what seemed to be a weak flop only to pull a flush out of his mask, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time. There’s hours of entertainment here, and for $5 on Steam, you can’t ask for more and might expect much less. Poker Night at the Inventory is packed to the brim with more than you’d think, from fantastic dialog to Team Fortress 2 unlockables, and is worth every penny.

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