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PC/Mac Game Review: Poker Night 2

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Playing poker is fun.  If playing poker wasn’t fun—and I apologize in advance for how stupid this is about to sound, but that doesn’t make it any less true—people wouldn’t play poker.  What I have always found to be the issue with poker is more the ability to get a regular game going than anything else.  A great substitute for when you don’t have the time required to get the gang together?  Computer-based poker with good friends from your favorite bits of pop culture nerdom.  Enter Telltale’s inexpensive Poker Night 2.

Available on PS3, 360, and both PC & Mac, Poker Night 2 sits you down at the table with Brock Samson, Claptrap, Ash Williams, and Sam (of Sam & Max).  And, all the while, GLaDOS acts as dealer.  If those names don’t mean anything to you, feel free to stop reading the review at this point – Poker Night 2 isn’t going to satisfy you.  The game is, to a large extent, about playing poker with these characters, the poker itself is distinctly mediocre.

You can either play Omaha or Texas Hold’em, with each tournament starting players off with $20,000.  By completing a random set of objectives (over as many tournaments as you need), you can get the opportunity to play for a special item near and dear to one of the NPC’s hearts.  Win the item (again, this doesn’t have to happen in the first tournament) and you get unlockables (they differ by platform).

These objectives, and getting the NPCs drunk, are really just a sideshow, the point is to play poker and listen to the goofy interactions the characters have with one another (you stay silent).  Predictably, after a short while dialog repeats.  While it is all funny the first time through, having play stop to have Claptrap go off on some rant is less fun the 12th time you’ve heard it.   Eventually, you may find yourself playing the with the sound off.

What the game needs is more NPCs, multiplayer, the ability to turn off the first time funny bits of dialogue, and more types of poker.  With these things, it would be brilliant.  As it stands, it’s just pretty good.

Okay, so, that’s that.  But, it really isn’t.  The thing is that the game costs $4.99.  That really is inexpensive, so the notion of asking for a whole lot more is a little silly.  If this was a $30 title, then, yes, there certainly should be the ability to swap characters and play more types of poker, but for $4.99, it seems a little ridiculous to complain.  Plus, not only is the dialogue funny (the first time through), but the actors sell it and the graphics are good.  Asking for more for $4.99 doesn’t seem right – how many comedies have you gone to see on the big screen and paid way more than $4.99 for a ticket without laughing once?

Even so, I hope that updates to the game come and that we get to see more character or online interaction or types of poker.  I won’t hold my breath, but it really would turn Poker Night 2 from an amusing diversion to a more serious endeavor.

Poker NIght 2 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Violence, Suggestive Themes, Strong Language, Simulated Gambling, Use of Tobacco. This game can also be found on: PS3 and Xbox 360.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.