Xbox LIVE Arcade Reviews

Poker Night 2 Review: Poker…with References!

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The whole Texas Hold ‘Em phenomenon has definitely come and gone at this point but that doesn’t actually stop poker from being fun to play, nor does it stop companies from trying to capitalize on people’s general knowledge of how to play the addicting game. Telltale Games is certainly no stranger to this as this is their second trip to the well for their comedy-infused poker series. Just like the first game, Poker Night 2 lets you sit down with four drastically unique personalities for a simple game of high-stakes, no-limit poker.

The cast of characters this time around are definitely fun and varied. You get Ash from Evil Dead and Army of Darkness fame, Brock Samson from Cartoon Network’s The Venture Bros, Telltale’s own Sam from Sam & Max and Claptrap from Borderlands. Valve even throws some love into the game with GlaDOS playing the role of the dealer.

The voice acting for almost every character is superb. Patrick Warburton is the standout as Brock Samson, with great lines and wonderful delivery. The rest of the cast is no slouch either though. Claptrap is as zany as ever, Sam – with the occasional injection of Max – has plenty of interesting quips and puns and GlaDOS brings several disrespectful and condescending comments. The only disappointment comes with Ash. He regrettably isn’t voiced by Bruce Campbell and while he has a few good lines and stories, he is clearly the weakest.

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There’s a wide range of characters and personalities at play here and interplay between the players is what makes Poker Night 2 worth playing. Pretty much every second of the game is accompanied by little comments, stories or conversations between players. These are almost always interesting and on several occasions they are laugh out loud amusing. These are the high moments of the game and when you ultimately feel that you are getting the best experience.

However with the sheer amount of dialogue in this game, you will still find repeats are fairly common. This usually comes from the short quips that accompany standard poker moves like folding, raising or going all-in. It’s not terrible but it definitely is noticeable. The game seems to do a better job of tracking the actual lengthy conversations. It’s able to stretch them across hands when they get interrupted by something like someone being knocked out of the game and on very few occasions have those repeated.

The actual gameplay doesn’t have any surprises. If you’ve ever played Texas Hold ‘Em or the four-card variant Omaha then you know what you’re getting into. If you’re not too familiar, the game has a decent amount of instructions and tutorials to help you along. Every game consists of a five person winner-takes-all tournament and there really isn’t any penalty for getting knocked out early, you simply start another tournament.The only unique aspect is that you can buy drinks for other characters in a attempt to liquor them up, supposedly making it easier to read whether they are being honest or bluffing. It’s a cute idea but it never felt necessary to use. It’s also nice that they included two different types of poker to give you some variety but it would have helped to include more, such as the more traditional 5 card draw.

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Outside of the game the real driving force to continue playing is to unlock things. As you complete tournaments you get a set amount of tokens based on your finish. You can spend these to unlock new styles of chips, cards and tables, all based on each character. Furthermore you are tasked with completing certain challenges to unlock the chance to win a precious item off of one of your opponents, such as Ash’s Necronomicon or Sam’s banjo. By obtaining those items, you earn unlockables outside the game. On Xbox 360 those include Borderlands 2 character items and avatar awards.

It’s also important to point that right now the Xbox 360 version of Poker Night 2 has some weird glitches. Stuttering happens every now and then and at times the game will flat out pause – to the point where you will think the game has crashed. Then it will just keep going as if nothing ever happened. They’re all small glitches and don’t affect the gameplay at all but they do happen. I’d say that almost every other game, I ran into the freezing glitch. But once I got used to it, I was fine waiting the five or ten seconds for it to wake back up.

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Poker Night 2 is a fun little game that is definitely worth checking out. It’s not going to provide you with a deep experience or take you dozens of hours to complete but it is a great way to sit down and kill an hour or so every now and then. For Borderlands 2 players the ability to earn extra stuff is pretty cool and the avatar awards are nice bonuses. You’ll be able to enjoy the game no matter what your attachment to the characters are but if you do know some or all of them, it will be that much sweeter.

SCORE: 8.0 out of 10

A review code for Poker Night 2 was provided to Pixel Related for review.

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