Review by Bobby Blackwolf

Game Review: Poker Night 2 (PC)

Game Review: Poker Night 2 (PC)

This isn't a review of a poker game. I'm putting that up front because I think that's the most important sentence of this entire review, so much so that I'm going to put one of my trademark dashes here and repeat the statement - this isn't a review of a poker game. I don't care if "poker" is in the title or the backdrop of the entire experience centers around creating the best hand out of your hole cards and what's on the table. That's not what this is. It's a shame they lopped off the last part of the title, because while the name of the game is Poker Night 2, it really is A Night At The Inventory 2.



Is This A Poker Game?


GLaDOS thinks your hand sucks
GLaDOS thinks your hand sucks
No. This is a sequel to 2010's Poker Night At The Inventory, also by Telltale games, which plays upon the same concept. You, The Player, are mute, and have stumbled upon The Inventory, a hidden speakeasy behind a maze where characters come together for a game of high-stakes poker. In this Speakeasy, you find several characters from various other gaming and movie/TV franchises - Brock Samson from The Venture Bros, Claptrap from Borderlands, Ash Williams from Army of Darkness (sadly NOT voiced by Bruce Campbell, but honestly I couldn't tell until I read the credits) and Sam from Sam & Max. The owner of the establishment is once again Reginald Van Winslow from Tales of Monkey Island (Disney says cha-ching) and serving as your dealer is the ever lovable GLaDOS from Portal.

This is a game about them, their stories, and their interactions between each other, as well as you. Remember, Telltale is an ADVENTURE game company. That's what they do best, and that's what they've done best here. If you go into Poker Night 2 expecting an awesome Poker simulator, you're going to go away disappointed. (I'm totally repeating this over and over because it really needs to be repeated over and over.)

So...What IS It?


Claptrap's probaby talking about dubstep here
Claptrap's probaby talking about dubstep here
Glad you asked. This is a character simulator, first and foremost. This is all about the dialogue between the characters, telling their backstories, joking with each other about their past, as well as their interaction with you. Not only do they react to what you do, but they also all have signature tells that will let you know if they are bluffing or not. This, to be honest, is the central part Poker Night 2 - it's probably more akin to L.A. Noire in this aspect than any other poker game. The better you are at reading your opponents, the better off you'll be.

Each opponent has different characteristics that force you to strategize differently. Brock gets overconfident. Claptrap is amazingly smart, but gets distracted by GLaDOS. Ash is overly aggressive and will go all-in when he has a 10 high, and Sam is extremely reserved (unless Max is shouting at him from behind.) Once you learn their tendencies, you can plan against them better.

Have a drink, Ash
Have a drink, Ash
One thing that helps with the tell system is the drink system. For five tokens (which you acquire after each game depending on how you place) you can buy any character at the table a drink, which will be delivered by Borderlands' Moxxi during the next hand. This will cause the characters to lose their poker face and give stronger tells as to whether they're bluffing or actually have a good hand. This mechanic is introduced to you a few games in, so you won't be able to use it right away.

You're playing for prized possessions, which unlock items in Borderlands 2 (on all platforms), or specific items on each platform - on the PC, you get Team Fortress 2 items, on the Xbox 360, you get avatar items, and on the PS3, you get XMB themes. Each character has their own prized possession that they will eventually be coerced into putting on the table for you to win. In order for that to happen, you must win three randomly selected "bounty challenges" which range from merely going all-in in a hand to knocking out two people in the same hand, and these can happen across any number of games. Once you complete the three, an item will continue to be made available at the beginning of a game until you win. (In other words, if you lose the game for the item, you don't have to complete three more challenges, a different character will put up an item for the next game until you win one.)

After each game, you will receive tokens to spend on branded chips, cards, and tables. Unlocking all three "deploys" that environment, which includes a custom situation that occurs for the first character that busts out. (For instance, in the Borderlands themed area, Steve, the "Heyoooo" guy from that game's easter eggs, arrives to remove the first person out.)

How It Looks And Sounds


Max made him do that
Max made him do that
I reviewed the PC version of Poker Night 2, and it was crisp and clean. I also have a decently powerful gaming rig. I downloaded the Xbox Live Arcade demo, and the same problems that I saw in previous console games using the Telltale Tool are present here - constant frame skips and general video lag. It's a shame, because they've done an excellent job with the environment and the character animations, and reading those animations is a very fundamental part of being successful.

The voice acting shines, however. All of the dialogue is fluid and natural, and there is nothing forced. While not having Bruce Campbell voice Ash can be seen by some as a slap in the face to all Army of Darkness fans, Danny Webber does a fine enough job making you forget it's not Bruce Campbell. The dialogue was also very well written, and I did actually laugh several times, usually when GLaDOS would appear right in my face to tell you about how much she despises me.

After a few games, however, you will start to hear repeat conversations, as they're tailored to who is still at the table. It will still take you a few hours to hear all of the various conversations, but the repetition does kick in sooner than you'd hope. In some cases, gameplay will naturally progress during these conversations, and even affect the judgment of some of the characters. (Here's a hint: Claptrap isn't paying attention to the game if he's talking to GLaDOS.)

The Verdict


If I was to review this as a poker game, I'd give it a low score. There are some issues with the actual poker playing interface, one of which is the lack of information it gives you if you are using a controller, such as how much you'd have to put into the pot when you want to call what the last guy raised. If you're playing with a mouse, you can just hover over the call button and a tooltip will show up showing you the amount. That feature went away when I plugged in my wired Xbox 360 Controller.

GLaDOS doesn't want your multiplayer
GLaDOS doesn't want your multiplayer
There also isn't any online multiplayer, and that's because this isn't a poker game. In order to make this an online multiplayer game, you'd have to take away the one signature piece of what differentiates Poker Night 2 from the rest, and that's the dialogue between the characters and the tells. Sure, you could have each online player be one of the characters, but then you'd still have to get rid of the tell system, because how would you like it if you're trying to bluff another player and the game forces them to see your character's tell to know that you're bluffing?

This is an adventure game where you're playing poker instead of solving a police case or escaping the undead. Poker is merely the vehicle used to tell the story of these characters from vastly different worlds. Go into it with that mindset and you'll have fun for a few hours, until you've unlocked all of the hats and then go back to playing Team Fortress 2 or Borderlands 2.

It's $5 on Steam, and $10 on XBLA and PSN. I find the mouse-based interface far superior than the controller interface, and the PC version just seems to run smoother for me than the short time I spent with the Xbox Live Arcade trial. So, if I had to give a suggestion on the platform, I would DEFINITELY get it on the PC if your system can handle it.

But just remember: This is NOT a poker game.

Price: $4.99 on Steam, $9.99 on PlayStation Network, 800 MSP on Xbox Live Arcade
Version Reviewed: PC
Acquisition Method: Promo code provided by publisher

Our Grade:
A-
Your Grade: B+
(Based on 4 grades)
The Good:
  • Natural dialogue between the characters make you wanting to hear them rather than play poker
  • Innovative tells systems gets refined from the first game
  • Great easter eggs for fans of the various franchises
The Bad:
  • People will think it's a poker game, and therefore want it to have online multiplayer
  • Certain poker interface features disappear when using a controller
  • After a few hours, you've heard all the dialogue, and therefore it loses replayability

Bobby Blackwolf is the host of The Bobby Blackwolf Show on the VOG Network, lead developer of the website, and lead GM for VOG: The Game. Follow him on Twitter at @BobbyBlackwolf

Review by - 4/26/2013 6:44 PM683 views

Your Responses

ssj100matt
ssj100matt
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: B
I am a big fan of this game. Overall the game is what it is, a poker game. But the big draw are the characters. Brock, Claptrap, Sam (Max) and Ash are great and the Unlocks add more depth to the experience. Glad0s is perhaps the best condescending dealer you can have in a poker game. Despite the computer getting those far too lucky and often river draws the game is a lot of fun. Even the poker novice can learn a few real applicable skills in a fun and hysterical way.
See 3 More Concurring Opinions
act_deft
act_deft
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: B+
This game pretty much does what makes the first Poker Night so appealing and fun and improves on it. The challenges are a great addition to the mix and hearing the dialogues between characters is always fun, even if they always beat me with lucky flops... The only downside is probably the replayability, since once you heard and seen it all, that's it. But achievements will keep people busy at least for some time.
Flaco_Jones
Flaco_Jones
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: B+
I have the PS3 version now since it was offered as one of the free PS Plus games last month. Outside of the terrible freezing and stuttering during game saves that I mentioned in my comment below, it's an awesome game, and at least it never fully locks up. I've won a few tournaments already and I love that I got an amazing PS3 theme for earning Brock's bounty. Great game, would be an "A" from me if the PS3 version wasn't so buggy.
Rageinator
Rageinator
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: B
I have the PC version, via Steam. I'll be frank- I don't know jack about poker and I normally don't go for poker videogames; they're not really my proverbial cup o' tea. As Blackwolf mentioned, it's more about the miscellaneous characters & they're interactions. My chef complaint is that the dialogue can get repetitious - not so much what they say to each other, but to you in response to how you play, which hurts replayability. Is this game fun? Long-term replayability? Probably not. Still, buy!

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Comments

Flaco_Jones
Flaco_Jones
4/29/2013 9:42 AM

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Reply
This sounds awesome, and I think I have to buy anything with GLaDOS in it because she's my all-time favorite video game character. Funny that it costs more on PSN than on Steam considering the Steam version sounds like the best one. Still, I like games on my TV with a controller, so I may just spend the extra cash...
e3vL
e3vL
4/30/2013 11:57 AM

0 0

Reply
Aside from Claptrap, Glados and maybe Sam not too familiar with the other characters as I did the first game. I'd probably wait for a steam sale...
Flaco_Jones
Flaco_Jones
5/10/2013 1:24 PM

0 0

Reply
I ended up getting the demo. Glad I did because if the demo is any indication the PS3 version is buggy as hell. Lots of stutters and freezes, but it is a cool game, I'm glad I got to try it out. Will most likely grab it from a future steam sale for PC.
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