Poker Night 2 Review

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Poker Night 2
Platform: PC, PS3. 360
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games

Poker Night 2 is a sequel to 2010’s Poker Night at the Inventory, a game that allowed players to play poker with four famous game/Internet characters, listen to some hilarious banter and win some Team Fortress 2 items in the process. This time around it is available on consoles too and there are now Borderlands 2 items along with some other platform specific bonuses.

It seems like a bit of a waste to review the sequel to a game that by most accounts, was bought totally for the bonus Team Fortress 2 items. But I came to the original as someone who not only didn’t play Team Fortress 2 but also has someone who didn’t really know any of the characters either. So the original had to work hard to impress me, and it certainly did as I played it for over seven hours and earned every item despite having no intention of ever using them. Poker Night 2 brings in four new characters with Sam from Sam & Max Brock from Venture Bros., Claptrap from Borderlands and Ash Williams from Evil Dead. GLaDOS from Portal also steps in as the dealer.

The original wasn’t exactly a good poker game. The characters would go all-in early in the game without so much as a pair, making it easy to win at times. At other times, they would seem to know exactly what cards you had and would beat you soundly. Poker Night 2 is a little more difficult as a result of the characters being less likely to risk it all on a crazy hand, but the poker simulation remains poor. They still raise absurd amounts before the flop, and will often drop soon after this if you show similar bravado. You’ll still manage to win with a pair of twos after the other players have raised the pot despite having nothing. And you’ll still have the weird contrast where in the space of the same game, the players suddenly become competent players. This will frustrate those who play the real thing and annoy people who were hoping to see an improvement.

If you don’t play it for the poker but the character interactions, then the game might still appeal particularly if you are a fan on the included characters. I’ve never played Sam & Max, watched very little of Venture Bros., I hate Claptrap and Ash is not voiced by Bruce Campbell. For me, the interactions were considerably less entertaining than in the previous game and I found that some of the dialogue repeated much sooner too. They obviously weren’t too confident with Sam carrying his end either as Max is wandering around in the background and often interjects on Sam’s behalf. The actor doing Ash does a decent job but there is really no replacing Bruce Campbell; and one has to wonder why they put him in at all without Campbell on board. Considering the relation to Team Fortress 2, it probably would have been better to have the Spy or another character sitting in his place. GLaDOS is just as you would expect and honestly, she is getting as old as the cake now.

There is now an option to play Omaha hold ‘em which still has a flop but each player is dealt four cards (of which they can use two). It doesn’t shake the game up much but it is a nice addition. There are some options that affect gameplay such as buying drinks for the characters with tokens. The tokens are earned during the game and can also be used to unlock decks, chips and felts. Players just after the TF2 or BL2 items will be annoyed to learn that they’ll probably be playing through many times to get everything as you now need to fulfil certain requirements just for the chance of unlocking something.

Poker Night 2 is cheap so it feels harsh being too critical but given it is a sequel, it is a bit disappointing that the problems with the poker simulation weren’t addressed and it was developed by a company whose first title was a poker game. You can get a much better poker experience elsewhere if that’s all you’re after. If you are interested in the characters or just must have all the goodies, then it is still a recommendation but it may not be as much fun as it was last time. No matter who you are, you’re getting a terrible poker game but an okay game – if that makes any sense.

2 Stars

April, 2013

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