Of all the games on Xbox Live, few may be more impressive than Poker Smash, for quite a few reasons. It’s not only fun, but the story behind the game is quite remarkable.
The game’s developer, Void Star Creations, is made up of three guys. On a limited budget. That only makes what they've pulled off all the more impressive.
The game itself plays similar to Nintendo's Puzzle League series or Tetris Attack. You have five rising columns of blocks - your job is to try and match them up in various ways to eliminate them. The poker theme shows up in that the blocks each are painted with a face value and suit that matches with a card from a poker deck. To remove cards from the constantly-rising stack, you need to match them up in traditional poker hands - three-of-a-kinds, straights and full houses are among the different combinations you can make to get points and clear the board. It's a simple, but proven mechanic, and in what Poker Smash is trying to accomplish, it works well.
The game looks pretty darn nice for what's essentially a simple arcade puzzler. Mostly, it's the little details, like the burst of sparks when you get a combination or the tiny backgrounds on each of the cards that adds visual value to the game. In short, it looks pretty. The game's ten different songs also bring a nice diversity of music to the game that reflects the action on the screen.
Cards can only be moved from side to side, but can drop down when there’s a hole in the row. You can also chain combos together to earn greater points. When challenges come into play, you’ll often need to learn how to use these chain combos to beat the challenges and get more points. You are also granted the use of bombs to remove cards – which regenerate as you complete more combinations – as well as the power to speed up and slow down time. All of these mechanics add a further level of challenge and strategy to the game that is very welcome.