When Telltale Games closed their Walking Dead series with an emotional ending to episode 5, who’d have thought that the next game from the pointy clicky kings would take a step away from their previous adventures and make its way to a poker table? Sure enough, when playing their latest title that’s exactly what I found myself doing – sat around with some familiar faces trying to win a few quid.
The instant eye-opener here is who you’ll be playing against in each tournament. Telltale fans will instantly love the fact that Sam and Max are involved, but there are favourite from other titles including Claptrap (from Borderlands), Brock Samson (from Venture Bros) and Ashley Williams of Army of Darkness fame. The inclusion of such characters is an interesting idea and one that could easily fallen flat, but the level of banter between the players elevates the selections into the genius category. And yet, the players themselves aren’t the star of the show. This accolade goes to GLaDOS, the ever-patronising test-obsessed star of the Portal series. Acting as the dealer and announcer in each game, she brings together proceedings and is the perfect final part of a puzzle which makes it feel like you’re sat around with a few mates, casually chatting about all sorts of stuff. There isn’t an unlimited amount of dialogue obviously, but there’s enough to stop things feeling too repetitive if you’re playing in fairly short bursts.
In terms of the poker itself, the game is rock solid. While not being the most comprehensive in terms of play options (you’ve got the choice of Texas Hold ’em and Omaha, no more) it does a great job of making the game enjoyable. You won’t be winning every game that’s for sure, but it’s entirely possible to pick up on little mannerisms that each character displays and learn to realise when they might be bluffing. These are slightly emphasised by buying them a drink using your in-game currency, but not entirely reliable – these guys know how to trick you from time to time and going all in with a moderate hand is always a heart-pounding moment.
But there are rewards for winning tournaments, so taking a risk is definitely worthwhile. After winning a normal game, one member of the group will put up a special prize that you can win by coming out on top again, and winning these items means real world rewards such as (for the PS3 at least) themes for the XMB or little extras for Borderlands 2 if you’re a fan of the Pandora adventure. It’s not a one-shot-only thing either; bomb out of the following tournament and you can just try to win it again next time round. It’s great to actually get a proper prize for doing well in the game, something other than just a few more XP, coins or whatever.
Poker Night 2 works really well for people who like a spot of poker but aren’t necessarily obsessives. Without the range of game modes that you’d find in, say, High Stakes Poker it’s more of a casual affair. You’ll love the banter between the characters, you’ll love GLaDOS and her put-downs to all of the players, and you’ll love the opportunity to have more fun with some of the best gaming characters from the past few years. With no multiplayer options and only a couple of modes there might not be months of longevity here, but at £8 there are more than enough laughs to warrant the price.
Reviewed on PS3