Over the years, poker has really picked up in popularity, with a number of high-stakes tournaments in Vegas and Texas Hold 'em sessions being held at bars everyone (usually for bar tabs -- which is just fine by me). But we haven't seen too many poker video games as of yet. Activision did try its hand (mind the pun) at "World Series of Poker" a few years back, and Microsoft is working on a new game for release sometime over the summer, to please its Xbox Live audience.
There are only two game types in "Poker Night 2," but, honestly, you won't be too worried about the ones that are missing. The poker itself plays out rather well, with GLADoS laying out cards and then giving you the option to check, fold, raise, etc., like you would in real poker. It's great to see how high-stakes these matches get, as Ash and Claptrap really have a tendency to go all-in -- perfect for their character types. The question is if you've got the guts to call on them.
Although the poker action doesn't really change over the course of "Poker Night 2," it's the camaraderie that keeps its energy nice and upbeat. The interaction between characters is nothing short of golden, whether Sam and Ash are comparing firearms (sorry, Sam, nothing beats a boomstick) or Claptrap relentlessly hits on GLADoS, only to be rejected by her in the worst, most hilarious way possible.
Part of this credit goes to the voice actors. David Eddings continues to be pure gold as Claptrap, while Patrick Warburton is at his best as Brock. And, as always, Ellen McLain is right on cue as GLADoS, right down to insulting you as you win a big hand. (Because why should she pay you compliments?) We are a bit disappointed that Bruce Campbell couldn't voice Ash, but his fill-in is just fine. Sam and Max are a hoot to listen to, as well.
In addition to the hours of dialogue within the game (it tends to repeat later on, but it's really not that bothersome), "Poker Night 2" comes with unlockables galore. On the Xbox 360 version, which is the one we're reviewing, you can earn new skins, decks and other goodies for your poker play, using tokens that you pick up through each match. It's funny playing on a "Venture Bros." table with a "Borderlands" deck, but being able to mix and match keeps things interesting. You'll also earn exclusive skins for the "Borderlands 2" game, while over on the PS3, you'll unlock some awesome premium themes. (Steam owners get the best deal of all, with "Team Fortress 2" goodies.)
The game does come up short in the visual department. Although the characters look great and some of the environmental details are worth noticing (hey, is that Mad Moxxi at the bar?!), they appear to be a touch below high definition. But you can at least see your cards, and with a poker game, that's important. Also, there's no real multiplayer angle here, but that's all right, because the characters provide enough charm that you won't mind playing solo.
Telltale's "Poker Night 2" is probably one of the better card games we've played as of late, but surprisingly enough, it's not because of the actual poker, but rather the character interactions and unlockables you can earn. They're more than enough to justify the purchase of this game -- especially if you're a fan of their franchises. Consider this a safe, yet hilarious, bet.
For the latest information about videogames, visit http://www.gamerhub.tv