Poker Night 2 Review
Oh yes it’s Poker Night, oh what a night!
First off, you’re welcome for getting Ladies Night stuck in your head. Don’t deny it. It happened. Now, where were we. Oh right, Telltale Games Poker Night 2! The sequel to their 2010 card game full of crazy characters was released on the Xbox Live Arcade yesterday, with the Steam version releasing on Friday and the Playstation Store version next week. Pull up a chair, it’s time to play some cards.
We start Poker Night 2 by entering the Inventory, a secret club built in the early 1900’s, where popular fictional characters gather together to play Poker, have some drinks and make fun of each other. You play as a silent, faceless character that was able to secure a spot at the Poker table with Claptrap from Borderlands, Ash Williams from The Evil Dead, Sam from Sam and Max and Brock Samson from the Cartoon Network’s The Venture Bros. Then you have Max from Sam and Max hanging out in the club, Moxxi from Borderlands as the bartender and the sinister GLaDOS from Portal as the dealer. The only issue I have with the character selection is that Bruce Campbell does not do the voice work for Ash, and it’s just not the same without him. I don’t know why he isn’t there, but it’s a little weird that they didn’t just pick another character if they couldn’t get the right person to do the voice.
Once you ante up the $20,000 for the seat at the table, you can choose to play either Texas Hold ‘Em or, new to Poker Night 2, you can choose to play Omaha instead. For those who don’t know, Omaha is played with each player receiving four cards, instead of two like in Hold ‘Em, and you have to use two of your cards and three from the community cards that are laid face up in the middle of the table, just like in Hold ‘Em. I prefer to play Texas Hold ‘Em myself, but Omaha is there if you prefer it or if you just want to mix things up from time to time. Regardless of which game you decide to play, the hands you can win with are the same and the characters are still going to say and do hilarious things.
That’s really the best part of Poker Night 2 and you’re going to find yourself paying more attention to what’s being said and done than what cards you have in your hand. Whether they are making fun of each other, you or just coming up with ridiculous reasons why they are folding or why they lost the hand, the dialogue is what separates Poker Night 2 from any other Poker game out there. Even though some of the one-liners are repeated often, Telltale added enough longer dialogue that you don’t end up hearing the same conversations over and over. I don’t know if it’s enough to keep me playing long-term, but if you’re someone who likes to play a lot of Poker, you might as well listen to Claptrap and the gang while you do it. Most of the time the characters play a pretty decent game of Poker, but they can do some strange things every once in a while. Things like Sam going All In when he really shouldn’t and Claptrap folding instead of Checking, happened quite often. The rest of the time they played smart hands and made for some pretty stiff competition. I don’t play a lot of Poker, in real life or other games, but I was able to win about as much as I lost, so the system seems to be designed well enough that neither you or the AI has an advantage.
One thing that doesn’t sit right with me about Poker Night 2 is that it costs $10 on the Xbox 360 and PS3, but only $5 if you buy it through Steam for the PC. What’s that all about? I know that a lot of games will be slightly cheaper on Steam, but not 50% cheaper; that’s just not cool. There aren’t a lot of games that come out for only $5 on the Xbox, so maybe this has something to do with Microsoft’s pricing policies, I don’t know, but whatever it is stinks for console players. If you want to save some money and you have a decent computer, you should just buy it on Steam.
As you play and win tournaments, you’ll earn Inventory Tokens, which can be used to purchase new decks of cards, felt for the table and new chip sets based on the series that each character stars in. You can go with an Evil Dead deck of cards, Borderlands felt and Sam and Max chips, or mix and match however you wish. If you unlock all three of the same series, the Inventory’s theme will change, with new background decorations and even some additional characters showing up. You can also use your Inventory Chips to buy drinks for the players at the table, and if you get them drunk enough they will start to show their tells, making it easier for you to tell when they are bluffing or not.
One of the selling points that Telltale have been promoting is the fact that you can unlock items for Borderlands 2 (all platforms) and Team Fortress 2 (PC only of course) by completing certain tasks in Poker Night 2. You can also unlock Avatar props in the Xbox 360 version and extra themes in the PS3 version. To unlock these items, you’ll have to complete Bounty Challenges, such as winning a hand going All In or Winning A Tournament. Once you complete a set of challenges, one of the players at the table will have to put their Bounty as a special prize and if you win that tournament, you get the Bounty. They aren’t the greatest items ever, but free stuff is free stuff.
Poker Night 2 doesn’t feature any multiplayer modes. I know the game wouldn’t be the same without the characters at the table, but it would have been nice to be able to meet some friends at the Inventory and play some cards. You’d still have GLaDOS overseeing the game and the other characters could just be hanging around the bar for background noise. It’s a missed opportunity to have a great way to keep people playing once they get tired of playing alone.
If you absolutely just love playing Poker and you’re ok with playing it alone, then you’ll be happy that you bought Poker Night 2. If you only kind of like Poker and want Poker Night 2 just so you can see what the characters do and say, then buy Poker Night 2 on Steam and save some money. The characters are funny, but it’s not worth $10 if you’re not in it for the Poker as well.
Price: $9.99 on Xbox Live and Playstation Store and $4.99 on Steam
Release Date: April 24th (X360), April 26th (PC), April 30th (PS3)
Available On: Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Store, PC via Steam and Coming Soon to iOS