Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Poker Night 2

Post-Launch Review
Poker Night 2
Developer: Telltale Games
Released: April 2013


At the clandestine club called The Inventory, a group of familiar faces gather for a high-stakes poker tournament: Brock Samson (Venture Bros), Claptrap (Borderlands), Ash Williams (Army of Darkness), and Sam (Sam & Max), along with the dealer GLaDOS (Portal)... and you!

At Launch

 Critical reception was positive, with average review scores of about 75%. Reviewers had great fun with the characters, often recommending the game even to those without much interest in poker because of the humour and references to the characters' stories. Some critics complained of repetitive dialogue and limited gameplay (like the lack of other poker types), with a handful actually calling it a bad poker game.

Post Launch

No updates, and judging by the first Poker Night, none planned.
Mechanically speaking, Poker Night 2 is much clearer and better laid out than its predecessor. Sometimes you have a chance to win special trophies that come with game items for Team Fortress 2 and Borderlands 2. In the first game this happened seemingly at random, while in the sequel, you have 3 randomly-selected goals to meet (and you can take as long as you need to). Once all three "bounties" are accomplished, the next tournament you enter will have a special item as a prize for winning. This is nice - it's easy to see when the next item will go up, and you have clear goals to work towards.

You earn tokens for playing - more tokens the better you do in a tournament. These tokens can be spent on unlockable skins for the deck, table, and chips. If you select all three options from the same game - say, the Borderlands 2 set - the Inventory takes on an appearance inspired by that game, with background music and some more influence from that game. Neat, and a nice touch.

You can also use those tokens to buy drinks for the other players. The more they drink, the more likely they are to show their tells and drop hints as to what's in their hand. This is interesting - you can spend tokens to improve your odds of victory instead of on unlocks, though you still have to pay attention.
I'm a little disappointed in the characters this time around. The table feels more bland and repetitive than the previous installment, where the players were the Heavy (TF2), Strong Bad (Homestar Runner), Max (Sam & Max), and Tycho (Penny Arcade). Brock seems a little toned down from his occasionally psychotic portrayal in Venture Bros, Claptrap seems to have a damper on his absurdity, and Ash comes across as more of a pompous ass than the character I remember from the Evil Dead movies. I don't know how Sam compares to his portrayal in his games, but he's kind of uninteresting as well. I also found that the voice lines seem to repeat more often than in the first game. I don't know if that comparison is just selective memory, but in Poker Night 2 I was hearing entire conversations repeated after only an hour.

GLaDOS, though, steals the show. Her constant insults are hilarious, with such choice lines as "80% of you will lose tonight, and 100% of you will eventually die. Math is fun".

The Verdict

Recommendation: play it (if you like poker).
Simply by virtue of having actual characters to play against - and hilarious licensed ones at that - the Poker Night games are way more fun than boring old ordinary poker games. The only real downside is that the dialogue can get a little repetitive.
One important note to hardcore poker fans: this isn't a professional poker simulation, but a game of poker with these characters, each with their own style of play and (seemingly) skill level.

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