Sunday, May 5, 2013

Poker Night 2 (Xbox 360) Review

Poker Night at the Inventory 2 follows in the footsteps of its predecessor and has you, the player, playing poker with four different characters from different universes.  Each character is pretty faithfully represented.  Claptrap looks and sounds like Claptrap.  Brock Sampson has gone from 2D to 3D, but still sounds the same.  Glados is...well, Glados, and will berate you at every turn, as she should.  Ash is not voiced by Bruce Campbell, which did take a little getting used to.

The characters, the banter and their interactions are really fun.  There are several scenarios for characters talking to each other, depending on who is left at the table, and also have several different scenes when they are out of money and have to leave the table.  It entertaining to watch (and listen to), and it took a fair bit of time before I heard something being repeated.  My wife's favorite was the one where Claptrap was shut down with a logic trap, and she made me watch the episode of Star Trek (original series) that it referenced. I think my favorite was Steve (when in the Borderlands environment) eliminating people with his bazooka.  It didn't kill them, but it did make Brock very angry...

As the name gives away, this is a poker game.  You have two different types- Texas Hold Em and Omaha.  When you start the game, there are a few tutorial messages explaining how to play Texas Hold Em.  I already knew how to play it, but I read them anyway.  After losing my first tournament, I decided to try Omaha.  There were no automatic tutorial messages for how to play that, though.  I later looked up how to play Omaha from the help menu, and realized why I kept losing hands.  I went back to Texas Hold Em, and have had much more success after getting in the swing of it.  I like that there are two different poker games, though.  If you are better at one, you can play that, or mix it up by switching between the two.  It's a nice bit of variety.

Since the basis of the game is that you are the fifth person playing poker with the other four characters, there is no multiplayer option.  While others might see this as a negative, I see it as a positive.  If you just want to play poker against real people, there are plenty of options.  Online multiplayer has a lot of downsides, so I really like that it's a single player experience.  Local multiplayer would be pointless too, since you would need multiple screens to make it effective.  The draw here is playing poker against characters and listening to their banter, which I find really entertaining.

Winning a tournament (or placing in the top 3) will give you some tokens.  These tokens can be used to buy different skins for the chips, deck and the table (felt).  There are skins for each of the franchises represented (Borderlands, Sam and Max, Venture Bros., Army of Darkness, and Portal), and equipping the chips, deck and table from the same franchise will change the whole environment to reflect that series.  As a fan of Borderlands, I really like that one, but the Sam and Max one is cool for the film noire-looking ambiance.  It's not too hard to at least come in third place, so you can at least get a few chips and begin working toward getting them all.  It will take some work and dedication to get them, but worth it.

Buy someone a drink to make them easier prey.
There are also several extraneous goodies to unlock while playing the game.  My personal favorites are the different skins and heads for use in Borderlands 2.  You are given three target challenges, and when they are completed, the next tournament will have a character place a personal item up for the winner.  If you win, you will get the item, which will unlock the heads/skins for Borderlands 2, and avatar awards for your Xbox Live avatar (the PS3 version gets dynamic themes).

If you are interested in the achievements, they aren't too hard or long to get.  Winning each personal item is worth an achievement, as is equipping all of a set for each game represented (chips, deck and felt).  Being good at poker will make these go faster.  I'm not that good at it, but I can keep plugging away at getting all the unlockables (since I do like unlocking stuff) and winning the personal items to get the Borderlands 2 items.  Personally, the hardest one to get is having a winning total of $1 million.  To get that, you have to win 10 more tournaments than you lose.  So you can see why being good at poker would make that go much faster.

Sadly, there were a few bugs in Poker Night 2.  I had the game lock up on me twice, requiring me to turn off my system.  The game saves after each hand, so I didn't lose much progress.  The other was a lot more inconvenient.  The "press A to start next hand" appeared on the screen, and would not go away.  I could not actually start the next hand, and hence, could not progress in the tournament.  I backed out to the dashboard, but that didn't help.  The only thing I could get to work was starting a new tournament.  This counts as a loss, so I was out $20k, making the $1 million achievement even that farther away.  Plus, if you get this while winning a tournament, it will be even more disheartening.

I was pleasantly surprised and had fun playing Poker Night at the Inventory 2.  I'm not a big poker player, so I don't have the confidence to play against other people.  The single player nature of Poker Night 2 makes it a good poker game for me.  I also really liked the different things you can unlock.  I enjoy listening to the characters talk to  and make fun of each other.  It feels like all they all just got together to enjoy a night of playing poker and talking, which is exactly what it is supposed to feel like.  If you are a fan of at least one of the games (or show) represented, or want some cool unlocks for your avatar or in Borderlands 2, definitely check out Poker Night 2.

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