You might be able to read my poker face
Poker Night at the Inventory 2 is about more than just being a poker game. It tries to capture the most important part of poker: sitting around with you friends and chatting away the evening. Poker Night also does something different; it simulates bad poker players, which is part of the charm and fun.
Joining you at The Inventory this time around are Brock Samson from Venture Bros., Claptrap from Borderlands, Ash Williams from Army of Darkness, and Sam from the Sam and Max series. It’s a hell of a round-up of characters, and GlaDOS from Portal is around to host the festivities, which makes for one heck of an evening.
Poker Night at the Inventory 2 (Mac, PC (reviewed), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: April 24 2013, (Xbox 360), April 26 (PC and Mac), April 30 (North America PS3), May 1 (Europe PS3)
MSRP: $4.99 (PC) / $9.99, 800 MSP (PS3, Xbox 360).
The basic premise behind Poker Night at the Inventory 2 is, “What would it be like to play poker with a group of fictional characters?” and it does a good job of pulling that off. It doesn’t reinvent poker with crazy rules — it’s just Texas Hold’em and Omaha, and it’s not a really difficult game. If there’s one reason to join in on the experience, it’s the characters.
Because truly, the characters are absolutely fantastic. They all pretty much talk and act like you’d expect them to, and they’re casual versions of the characters that we know and love. I know every single one of these guys very well, but if you aren’t familiar with a couple of them I think you would still enjoy hanging out with this group. Brock will talk about working for the Doc, Claptrap tries to recruit everyone for an adventure on Pandora, Ash has an ongoing story about his girlfriend, and Sam will turn to Max asking for advice.
The banter is casual and charming. It suits the types of conversations that people would actually have while playing a game with friends. The only real downside to it is that after awhile it can become repetitive. It’s not a huge problem because it’s all well written and funny, but after hearing the same conversation for the 10th time it starts to wear on me. This is especially an issue if you find yourself with only two other characters at the table for a long period of time, since they have a fixed number of conversations they can have exclusively with just each other.
Thankfully, the actual act of poker playing is better than the original Poker Night. The characters seem to have a much stronger play style and unique mannerisms. That’s one of the best things about playing a game with fixed characters: you learn how they play and you can start to figure out when they are bluffing, because at first, it’s not obvious.
When Ash taps his fingers, it doesn’t mean he’s always bluffing. He might just think he has a weak hand, or he might be doing it to make you think he’s bluffing. It feels organic, and not like a system that you can learn to always win. This approach makes it real, and it makes it very interesting. After playing for several hours, I was playing much better against these guys, but I wasn’t able to just win outright every time.
The interesting thing here is that the AI isn’t necessarily trying to be good at poker, it’s trying to be true to the character. Claptrap is a terrible poker player since he just randomly decides what to do, and he talks about his strategy out loud, but that doesn’t make him any less fun to play against. If anything, it makes him a blast to have at the table. Each character has a unique way of playing — it’s super fun to try and figure out what they are up to.
If you are new to poker, which I’m sure there are people out there who don’t know anything about the game, then there is a nice tutorial you can read that will teach you the basics. I would actually recommend this game as a way to learn to play, since it’s fun even if you lose.
Another introduction in the sequel are unlocks. As you play and perform well, you will receive tokens which can be used to unlock themed chips, tables, and backdrops. There is a set for Sam & Max, The Venture Bros., Borderlands, Army of Darkness, and Portal. If every piece from the set is activated it enables bonus conversations that relates to the theme. I felt driven forward, and it gives the poker a sense of forward moving progress as I played. Each character also has a special item that you can win from them that unlocks items in Borderlands 2 and Team Fortress 2. Now all you TF2 junkies out there have to play it.
If you are looking for a good poker game, then this is a no-brainer, but even if you aren’t a huge poker player don’t overlook this. The witty conversations and fleshed-out characters make this a fantastic little game, with very little holding it back. While it would be nice to not hear repetitive dialog, minor faults don’t ruin Poker Night 2 as a whole. For five bucks (on PC) I highly recommend this gathering of fictional celebrities — and I’m not bluffing.