Poker Night 2
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Card Game / Gambling
Release Dates (XBOX360): April 24, 2013 (EU & NA)
Release Dates (PS3): April 30, 2013 (NA), May 1, 2013 (EU)
Price: 4.99$ (Xbox Live Marketplace & PlayStation Network)
Poker Night 2 follows a familiar pattern that you have probably seen or at least heard of before, and much like the original title Poker Night at the Inventory, it puts you, The Player against four other characters from different blockbuster franchises not only from the video game industry, but also from television series and movies, in tournaments of Texas Hold'em or Omaha Hold'em. This time around your adversaries are Sam from the Sam & Max franchise, Brock Samson from The Venture Bros, Ash Williams from The Evil Dead franchise, and Claptrap from the Borderlands series, in addition to GLaDOS from the Portal series which takes the role of the dealer.
There isn't a story that unites those characters at the Inventory poker table, but having them in one place is great no matter the circumstances, and even though there is no adventure or story to follow here, hearing from them once again is just as nice. Even with the thought of the game being a simple poker simulator with your favourite characters as your adversaries in mind, the game does little to set itself apart from other such games apart from having those characters in it; there is only a short introduction cutscene when you start the game for the first time that shows you making your entrance at the Inventory for the first time and bumping into all those characters along the way as you move towards the table, and after that everything will become an endless repetition until you eventually get bored of the game.
Even if you aren't familiar with some of the franchises that brought you those characters, they will make themselves known to you as you play more and more with them and hear their stories, but the real pleasure comes for those long-time fans of one of those characters, because hearing themselves explain one of their adventures that you are already familiar with in different way and in some ways making a parody of it is unlike nothing else.
There's no catch here, it's poker: you either dig it or you don't, but considering the amount of poker games out there, some of which come at no cost at all, looking at Poker Night 2's only 2 game modes and the lack of any sort of multiplayer you realize that if you got this game for the actual poker playing experience, you clearly got the wrong thing. Sure, Texas Hold'em and Omaha Hold'em are the most popular poker modes, but just like anything else it will get boring to follow the same road every tournament without any twist to change the actual game. Poker was always one of the most popular forms of gambling and even if virtual poker games still maintain that feeling by using virtual money and chips, it doesn't feel like gambling unless you play against other human players.
Playing against the AI gets boring incredibly fast simply because their next move will always be predictable in a form or another, and even though the difficulty of the game is somewhere around what would be a normal level, you can't increase or decrease the difficulty to your liking if you're looking for a more intense experience or a more relaxed play. The only things that will change the boring atmosphere come in the form of unlockables, that once activated will change things like the deck of cards, the table or the chips and activating all three of them from the same theme will trigger a different scenery effect specific to that theme, making the Inventory look like the set of another Evil Dead movie or the next chamber of Portal experiments, but even so, those changes are strictly visual and will not affect the core idea of a repeating poker experience that is isolated to the AI battles only. Apart from the items that can be unlocked using tokens that you'll win at the end of each tournament according to what position you finished on and the ability to order drinks from the bar for your adversaries there is nothing else to distract you from what is an incredibly repetitive set of plays that is limited in every possible way.
Poker Night 2 isn't the prettiest game out there, even compared to other poker titles only, but it's not bad looking either; the characters are nicely done, the backgrounds are pretty and those unlockables really change the scenery in a pleasant way, especially when you combine all three of them from the same theme package. The animations are decent, even though the lip sync can be way off at times, but all the funky moves of those characters that combined with audio effects create some funny moments that make up for it. Things don't look bad in any way, but you can clearly see some cubic edges when the camera zooms in on a character's face and so on.
The cast, even though small, does its job of creating a rich audio environment as Sam is voiced by David Nowlin, Max by David Boat, Brock Samson by Patrick Warburton, Ash Williams by Danny Webber, Claptrap by David Eddings and GLaDOS by Ellen McLain. The one great thing about Poker Night 2 comes in the form of its epic dialogue between all those legendary characters that will constantly tell jokes and stories, all to the delight of the player. As good as those jokes are however, they won't last forever, and even thought the first hours of the game will be a pleasant surprise for the fans of those characters as you hear more and more stories about them, they will get repetitive eventually and when they do, that fun will almost instantly turn into boredom.
If you're a fan of those characters or at least some of them, you'll have fun in the game for a few hours, but after you've heard everything there is to hear, which shouldn't take longer than 5 hours to do, your only motivation will come in the form of unlockables which in a worst case scenario will take around 10 hours to unlock all, and after that there really is no reason to come back: you'll hear the same old lines over and over again, there is nothing else to win or see and there are much better poker games out there available for free, which can also be played online.
Poker Night 2 is a delight for those who appreciate the classics and wanna hear more about their favourite characters and this game is the perfect opportunity to see some of those legendary characters all in one place, but that special treatment will only last for a few hours, and once that is done and you've heard every joke those characters have in store for you, Poker Night 2 is just another game that you won't play ever again.