As someone who hasn’t really ventured into The Venture Bros, watched the Evil Dead/Army of Darkness movies, delved too deep into either Borderlands, or played the Sam & Max games, you’d think Poker Night 2 wouldn’t appeal to me in the slightest. Thankfully, the writing is done so well (as you’d expect from Telltale Games) that even people unfamiliar with these characters will get many laughs from Poker Night 2. Too bad other aspects aren’t nearly as good as the writing.
How Much Is It?
Who’s In It?
Brock Samson from The Venture Bros TV show, Claptrap from the Borderlands games, Sam from the Sam & Max series is at the table while Max is sitting nearby, Ash from the Army of Darkness movie, and GlaDOS from the Portal games.
Since each character is so unique and brings their own flavor to the table, it’s hard to pick my absolute favorite (GlaDOS and Claptrap are in the front though), but it’s easy to pick Sam as my least favorite due to him not being very funny at all.
What Do You Do?
In Poker Night 2, you play Poker (Texas Hold ‘Em or Omaha) at a table featuring Brock, Claptrap, Sam, and Ash, with GlaDOS dealing the cards. When it comes to the actual Poker side of things, it works as well as you’d expect, not adding anything to the formula, but not doing anything to mess it up.
Starting at the beginning, the rules are humorously explained in a way that even a beginner can understand them. Once you get into the game, you are given your cards, then you go through the usual tropes of calling, checking, raising, and trying to read the other player’s bluffs.
To help keep the act of playing Poker from getting too boring, each of your opponents will begin to tell stories in the match that can carry throughout an entire hand. These are (almost) always interesting and can range from Sam getting asked why he wears pants to GlaDOS just down right insulting anyone at any given time with whatever they’re talking about.
One of my personal favorite conversations involved Claptrap inviting Sam and Max over to Gearbox, only to have Sam say that he doesn’t think they’re first-person shooter material. Then, true to form, Max started shooting a gun around, leading Claptrap to say that he’s a little overpowered and might have to be nerfed.
How Does it Look?
You aren’t going to be blown away by the graphics in Poker Night 2, though when it comes to the look of the characters, they look exactly as you’d want them, with Telltale not changing them too much to match this game’s aesthetic. As far as customization goes, you can change the look of the table, deck, characters, and chips through a handful of unlockables based on each character.
How Long is It?
Well, this is really going to depend on your skill level. Since the main goal is to get each player’s special item (Claptrap’s is his VGA) – with obtaining all the unlockables, topping the leaderboards, getting the Borderlands 2 head and skins, and XMB themes being secondary ones – if you’re a good Poker player and manage to win every single Tournament, you could effectively get through most of Poker Night 2 in about 6 – 8 hours. If, like me, you aren’t very good, it will take longer.
Is It Hard?
Once you manage to read the tells and figure out when the AI is going to match your bets or fold, things aren’t difficult, but at the end of day, Poker is a game where luck plays a big component.
So, What’s the Big Problem?
In just three simple words – glitches and freezing. Comparing this to Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, Poker Night 2 gave me more issues within the first couple hours than I experienced with all 5 episodes of TWD.
Though I was never forced to restart my PlayStation 3 to get the game to work (I did have to hit the Home button more than a few times though), a normal ten minute period of gameplay was usually met with 30 – 45 seconds of the game just downright freezing, generally when the game auto-saved, which happens very often. To make matters worse, there’s also repeated audio (Brock once repeated “Max” 15 times in a row), dropped audio, or glitches that skip over a player when they were clearly about to say something.
When you have a game that doesn’t really offer much in the way of interesting gameplay, atmosphere and being drawn into the experience are necessities for enjoyment. Unfortunately, when the game freezes up for 10 – 20 seconds every few minutes, you get taken right of the world and that immersion is broken.
Okay, Anything Else?
Yes, unfortunately. Though the writing is really well done and the actors do a great job with their voices, the dialogue repeats quite often. Not even calling to attention the fact that every character seems to repeat the same three catch-phrases when you call, raise, or fold, those conversations I commended earlier repeat as well.
As I mentioned, the story with Claptrap trying to recruit Sam to Gearbox was very funny – until I heard it again not an hour later. This repetition occurs with nearly every conversation, meaning that if you missed something interesting at some point, you don’t have to worry because it’ll come up again.
Should You Buy It?
Hidden underneath all the issues with Poker Night 2, there’s an enjoyable game. If Telltale manages to patch Poker Night 2 on the PS3 to a level where it runs smoothly, you should buy it, especially if you’re a fan of the characters features in the game. Since we aren’t at that point yet, hold on to your money.
As a side note, I do feel that it is my duty to let you know that Poker Night 2 is $9.99 on the PSN, whereas Steam has it for $4.99.
What Should They Do For a Sequel?
Aside from the obvious, I really hope that they add Sterling Archer to Poker Night 3, or if we’re lucky, as a DLC character to Poker Night 2. Hell, just put the entire Archer cast into Poker Night 3, and I wouldn’t mind when they kept repeating the phrase “Danger Zone.”