POKER NIGHT AT THE INVENTORY 2 REVIEW
Confession time! Before I started playing Poker Night 2, I really hadn’t played much poker in my life. I never had the crazy late nights playing with the boys type of experience nor fully understood the system of rules or how to harness the power of bluffing, but I have now.
Having spent a considerable time with the virtual rat pack from Poker Night 2: Sam (from Sam & Max), Ash (from Army of Darkness), Brock (from The Venture Bros.) and Claptrap (from Borderlands); I can honestly say I have a taste for this digital guys night out now.
The Blind Bet (Introducing Bluffy McBlufferton)
Telltale took a calculated risk when they announced this game on April 1st. In fact when I saw the initial announcement I was sure that it was an April Fool’s Joke but I’m glad that I was wrong.
This game combines the best of humorous writing, an intuitive approach to playing poker and a crazy eclectic cast of characters (from video games, television and a cult film) to blend into a fun memorable experience.
The Flop (So this is how it starts…)
The first thing worth noting is that the game’s intro does a fantastic job of setting up the mood with a crazy set of cameos, funny introductions to characters including the game’s dealer GLaDOS from Portal.
Each tournament begins with a $20,000 buy-in and away you go, betting and bluffing your way to success. The A.I. does a great job of reciprocating your playing skills for the most part although there was a few times I felt suckered but with my lack of poker experience I can chalk that up to my inability to read my fellow players actions.
Once I started to understand how to bluff better I felt like an unstoppable force and really lost myself to the camaraderie of Poker Night 2. While you play (whether you win or lose tournaments) you can earn tokens which you then use for purchasing different deck styles, tables, chips and other elements based on the other player characters.
Unlocking a complete set of themed items makes the environment of the Inventory change including the background music, scenery and even affects some of the conversations between players during play.
During tournaments, players can also attempt to complete a set of various challenges (three in total each time), which then allows them to play to win the next tournament to earn a character’s special Tournament Trophy.
All of this in turn gives players a fount of replay value besides racking up copious amounts of money, earning special Tournament Trophies and listening to all the dialogue from the game.
The Turn (or The Real Meat of the Game)
The biggest pay off in this game is clearly the dialogue. While not the traditional narrative of games, this series of conversations still retain an entertainment value that gives players a reason to stay beyond the shuffle of some cards.
Poker Night 2’s charm lies in the aesthetic of belonging to something fun, i.e. this group of friends locked in for a night of skill and chance. Maybe it was a little bit of my inner nerd who didn’t grow up with experiences like this but I feel like Telltale has made something really special here that I’m glad I took a chance on.
I made an honest connection with these characters while playing a game I barely understood but still powered through because I felt like I was part of a bigger event.
The River (Last Chance to Come Clean)
The downside to this whole affair comes about a few hours in when what I call the “recycling” begins. Basically the dialogue and interactions hit a point where they start to repeat ad nauseum which a lot of people will find annoying.
For me, I could look past this minor flaw for the bigger picture of entertainment but I can easily see how some players might find repeat Tournament play for Special Items or earning enough tokens to unlock all the items a bit of a grind.
The Showdown (Time to Show All the Cards)
Overall the whole Poker Night 2 experience is a short one but it’s one that deserves experiencing for the solid dialogue, the atmosphere of the perfect night out with friends and the intense fun that comes from the mastery of the power of bluffing.
Poker Night at the Inventory 2 is available now on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PC and iOS. It is 800 Microsoft Points, $9.99 on PlayStation Network and $4.99 on Steam and iOS.
This review is based on time spent playing Poker Night at the Inventory 2 on PC. A version of the game for Steam was provided by Telltale Games.