Poker Night 2 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [Reviewed]) Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games Released: April 24th, 2013
In early April, Telltale Games announced a sequel to its highly popular poker simulation game, Poker Night at the Inventory. The original featured characters that spanned across different games who had gotten together once they clocked out from work in order to play some high-stakes poker. This time around, Poker Night 2 features Brock Samson from The Venture Bros., Claptrap from the Borderlands series, Ash Williams from The Evil Dead franchise, and Sam from Sam & Max as opponents. GLaDOS from the Portal series serves as the dealer. Secondary characters such as Max from Sam & Max, the Aperture Science turrets from Portal, and Steve and Mad Moxxi from Borderlands can also be seen throughout the game.
Poker Night 2 starts off with a great introduction that includes the expected comedy that we’ve come to love from the franchise and from the franchises in which the other participants are from. Of course, our favorite Borderlands character Steve is back with his famous greeting as well. Once your opponents have finally shown up, everyone throws in $20,000 to buy-in to the game and things are ready to roll. For anyone new to the game of poker, Telltale has included a brief tutorial slideshow that explains the rules of the game and how to beat down your opponents one-by-one.
As the cards are dealt from the auto-dealer bot under the table, the characters quickly begin to converse with one another. It’s worth mentioning that the script provided for Poker Night 2 is fantastic and the banter between characters is a great draw to the game. Watching characters interact with one another that are from different game worlds gives a great insight into what it would be like if these characters got together in real life to throw down in some cards. If you’re like us, you’ll probably pause to listen to conversations and completely forget it’s your turn to call, check, fold, or bet, resulting in the players making wisecracks about why you’re taking so long. This added dialog is a good example of how the game immerses you in the experience and makes you feel like part of the gang.
The gameplay itself is very simplistic and should be easy for anyone to grasp, whether you’re a casual player or not. Your button options include X to Fold, A to Check, and B to Raise with the option of changing the bet amount with the directional pad or your analog stick. Unfortunately, the animation itself isn’t as fluid as it should be and you will notice slight hiccups, delays, and sometimes downright freezing that takes a moment or two to clear up. Thankfully, these little slight stops don’t take away from the experience as they are few and far between. The artificial intelligence in the game isn’t half bad at poker and casual players will truly enjoy the experience being offered. However, hardcore poker enthusiasts may find the game a tad more easy to master and take down, leaving you to feel like Mike McDermott rounding tables in underground New York.
Some of the best experiences in the game come when a player goes All-In. These showdowns are intense and Telltale does a fantastic job creating suspense for each drawn community card. Unfortunately, the characters continue this suspense animation even after the hand has ultimately been decided. Another gameplay related note worth mentioning is that the game does play at a relaxed pace. If you’re a speed player in the online poker world or in real life, the slowness of the play may be a nuisance for you. When it comes to a title like Poker Night 2, though, you’re there to enjoy the company of outrageous characters and the overall experience more-so than just speed playing through the game. Once the original tournament ends, you’ll have the option to unlock items or to start a new tournament. This will also allow you to choose between Texas Hold ‘em and Omaha styles of Poker.
We caution you not to bust out in PN2 as doing so will result in GlaDOS belittling you. This is both comical and shameful at the same time. You may never be the emotional rock you were before this happened, so be careful.
As you progress through Poker Night 2, you are given objectives to complete in order to have the opportunity to play for a special award from one of your opponents. These awards, when won, result in you unlocking specialty items for your Xbox Live Avatar or in-game items in Borderlands 2. Honestly, we were really excited about these as we’re massive of fans of the Borderlands franchise, so these added bonuses make Poker Night 2 a great purchase. Furthermore, depending on how you do within each tournament you play, you’ll be awarded with tokens. These tokens are used to purchase new decks of card, table felts, and poker chips themed around each character, including GLaDOS. When you combine these unlockables together as a matching set will change your Inventory setting to a theme from that specific game — using a full Borderlands set will let you play in Mad Moxxi’s bar, for example.
Tokens aren’t only used to unlock new items for Poker Night 2; they can also be used to put Moxxi to work for once. During the game, you have the opportunity to buy the other plays drinks. As you get each character more liquored up, they will slowly reveal “tells” that indicate when they’re bluffing or when they have a strong hand. These are obviously invaluable if you’re looking to tackle this game to max out your achievements and score some sweet cross-game swag.
Overall, Poker Night 2 is a great twist on traditional poker sims. Whether you like to play Texas Hold ‘em or Omaha, these guys have you covered. While it would be awesome if they included a multiplayer component that would allow an 8-seat table (4 human players and 4 AI opponents), the single-player offered is more than enough to keep you occupied and satisfied with your purchase. It’ll be interesting to see if Telltale decides to come out with DLC for this installment because the potential is there and we’d definitely let them take our money freely.