Poker Night 2 (PC) Review
Title: Poker Night 2
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Card Game
Rated: M for Mature
Honestly, who was actually pining for another Poker Night game? While the first one wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t exactly the best game Telltale has put out. And in a few major ways, this game is worse than the first one, which is wholly depressing.
In Poker Night 2, you play as the silent player (let’s call him Gordon), as you play poker against a new set of characters. In this game, you have the option of either playing Texas Hold’em (2 card poker), or the Omaha variant (4 card poker). Omaha was unknown to me, but you can pick it up fairly easily, with the “How to Play” section.
There are three basic additions to this game (aside from the new Poker game style):
The first change is that they added new characters to play against. Instead of Strongbad, The Heavy, Max and Tycho, you play poker with Ashley Williams (Evil Dead), Claptrap (Borderlands 2 variant), Sam (from Sam & Max), and Brock Samson (The Venture Bros.). Three of the characters are voiced by their normal voice actors, with Ash being the exception. Yes, it is noticeable. GlaDOS also appears as a side character, usually insulting you as you play.
The unlock system is different, and in a way better, but also worse. In the first game, it was (seemingly) entirely random when an item would be entered into a tournament to be won. In this game, there is a “Bounty” (task) system, and you need to fulfill three tasks in a tournament to get a chance to win an item. Say, “Buy drinks for players”, “Win a showdown with a straight”, and “Go all in and win”. These bounties are picked at random during the beginning of the tournament and are fairly easy to win. This is the part of the system that works well. The bad part I’ll get into below.
You can now buy the other players drinks during the game. This has the (theoretical) impact of letting them get drunk, and them making mistakes/giving their tells away, so you can get a small advantage. It doesn’t work well, if I’m honest. The few times they did let slip an extra word or two wasn’t enough of a difference, one way or another. It’d be better if you could keep buying them drinks, so they get more wasted, but you can only buy drinks once per tournament. At least Moxxi delivers them. In order to buy drinks, accept bounties, or play Omaha, you have to play a tournament of Hold’em first. Just as a quick note.
However, there are some problems with the game, and some regressions from the past one, which really isn’t a good thing.
The biggest gameplay problem is that everything moves even slower if possible than the first game. Poker Night 1 wasn’t a fast game, and the languid pace kind of annoyed me. It included options though, to speed it up, with a “Table Conversation” menu option, to dictate how often the players would talk to each other, or tell jokes/stories. It went from “Mum’s the word” to “The Gift of Gab”, with two options in between, to help tailor how much you want people to talk, or to shut the hell up, and play. PN1 also let you press the right mouse button in order to skip dialog and keep the game going faster. Poker Night 2 doesn’t let you skip dialog (that I’ve found), and is completely missing the Table Conversation menu. It suffers for it. The characters aren’t as funny this time around, and stories repeat WAY too often, as to become annoying after more than three games.
This is what Poker Night 2 is missing, and it suffers greatly for it
The roster is another big issue, in that I only agree with two of the character roster choices in this game, Claptrap and Sam. I have no opinion on Brock, but at least they got the voice actor who portrays him in the show (Patrick Warburton) to voice him for the game, same with GlaDOS. The big problem is Ashley Williams. Why bother putting Ash in the game if you’re NOT going to get Bruce Campbell to voice him. His stature has probably risen a bit with him being on Burn Notice, but come on. When you have a fairly iconic character with a sound-alike voice, you notice the difference. It would be like making an Iron Man video game, but not having Robert Downey Jr. do the voice work for him. This leads me to another problem…
The other roster issue is there are only four characters. Really? That’s it? The first game got by, by only having 4 characters, because it was a bit of an experiment. This game doesn’t have that saving grace. Honestly, they should approach this game like a Smash Brothers game, and just have as many characters from different franchises as they can. Have more TF2 guys, more Borderlands 2 characters (outside of Claptrap and a completely non-vocal Moxxi), Half Life 2 characters, Back to the Future characters, Puzzle Agent, The Wolf Among Us characters, etc. Then they could let you mix and match the characters, to tailor who you want to play as, like, going against the Heavy, the Spy, the Pyro, and the Medic, for an all Team Fortress 2 poker tournament. Possibly, by having difficulty tiers/personalities with each character, or at least with each type of character. I’ll be the first to admit, it would’ve taken a lot more work to include this system, but the game would’ve been much better off for it. Instead you just get 4 characters, 2 of which don’t make a whole lot of sense. It feels like a lazy, uninspired, tired, cash-grab. The bummer part about this is that during the intro of the game, when you’re being lead through the Inventory, you see a cameo appearance by Doug (from the Walking Dead game), for a few seconds. Even including one or two (or 10) of the memorable characters from that game, into this one, would’ve made all the difference.
Also, remember above, how I said the unlock system was stupid? Here’s how: The actual item unlocks (for other games) is fine. But there’s also an in-game unlock system for buying new decks, felts, and chip designs, that are evocative of each franchise (as well as an extra Portal skin). You have to buy each individual piece from the store, using unlock tokens that you win from a tournament. The problem? You only win 100 unlock tokens, per tournament win. Some items, particularly the Portal stuff (which everyone wants) is fairly expensive, compared to the other items. The Portal felt requires 320 tokens, which means you’d have to play (and win) the game 4 times in order to buy it. All totaled up, if you wanted to buy every item, it would be 1560 tokens, requiring 16 wins of the tournaments. Once you have three items of a given franchise set, and use them, the interior of the Inventory is transformed into a pastiche of the source material. However, a lot of the alternate cards are hard to read (notably the Army of Darkness/Portal decks), so it can be annoying to attempt this.
You can also still push around the AI in the game, by over-betting them and them folding over it. I’m not really sure if it’s a good or bad thing, as the AI was pretty dumb in the first game as well. The first game I played of this, Ash went all in on a 4 and a 7, despite no 4,7, straight, or flush opportunities presenting themselves with the flop. It was odd, to say the least.
Overall, Poker Night 2 is a very slipshod affair. It adds in only one new poker variant, a cast that feels weird (and isn’t particularly funny), and an unlock system you’re meant to grind through, in order to get what you want. Instead of actually trying to make a better experience for the player, they only saw fit to add in a few customary improvements over the last game and pushed it out the door. Telltale Games may not always be great, Jurassic Park I’m looking at you, but they are usually made with care. This game wasn’t, and it shows. Coming off from last year’s Walking Dead game, this is a let-down in almost all respects.
|Graphics||7.5||Characters fit the theme well (although Ash looks weird). The different settings for the inventory are nice, but some of the alternate card art is hard to read|
|Gameplay||7.0||Two variants of poker are included and that’s it. If you’re deeply into poker, you’ll enjoy it, but even then, the game moves too slowly for it to be an impulse game.|
|Sound||4.5||Well, four out of five voice actors isn’t bad, but if most people know what the 5th sounds like, and he’s not there, then it’s a problem. The music doesn’t get in the way, and also changes with the graphics for different sets.|
|Lasting Appeal||4.0||I imagine most people will be sick of the game about five tournaments in. If you actually want to unlock everything, good luck. The conversations repeat far too often.|
|Fun Factor||4.0||Fun for the first few times, then it becomes tedious and boring. The new poker variant isn’t enough to spice up the game any.|
|Overall||5.4 [ Not So Good ] legend|