Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Review Platform:Xbox 360 (XBLA)
Review Copy Provided By: Telltale Games
Release Date: April 24, 2013
Poker Night At The Inventory was released towards the end of 2010 by Telltale Games and featured the player playing no limit Texas Hold’em poker with ten thousand dollar buy ins against Penny Arcade’s Tycho, Sam & Max’s Sam, Team Fortress’ Heavy, and Homestar Runner’s Strong Bad. It came to fruition after the developers wondered what video game characters did in their off hours. Telltale decided to up the ante with a new set of curmudgeons in Poker Night 2 for XBLA, PSN, Steam, and iOS. Oddly enough the Steam version is priced at $5 while the console versions are at a $10 equivalent price tag.
Poker Night 2 returns players to The Inventory, a speakeasy sort of place, with Captain Reginald Van Winslow from the Monkey Island series returning to hosting duties serving up Texas and Omaha Hold’em Poker. The Venture Bros.’ Brock Samson, Sam & Max’s Sam, Evil Dead’s Ash Williams, and Borderlands’ CL4P-TP fill out the cast of players for this go around and the Portal’s GLaDOS is featured as the dealer. Sam’s buddy Max returns to provide sidekick humor and Borderlands’ Moxxi silently serves up drinks. It really turns out to be quite the ensemble of 5 very different personalities all humorous in their own right but hilarious as a group.
The personalities of the cast shine as they interact with each other and the silent player. Hands are filled with wacky banter, hard hitting questions, and stories filled with funny references. Hearing Ash finish a story with his classic line “shop smart, shop S-Mart” or watch as CL4P-TP tries to hit on GLaDOS is truly where this concept shines. All of it is fully voice acted by each characters respective voice actor except Ash Williams…yes that is right, no Bruce Campbell and that is the true shame. The voice actor filling in does a decent enough job but no one does Bruce like Bruce.
The commentary from the cast might be the draw for Poker Night 2 but the lack of variety will be what will end up turning people away. After hearing Sam say “Not bad. Not really good, but not bad” for the umpteenth time during a tournament and watching play get halted during the same interaction between character that has happened in the last half dozen tournaments, Poker Night 2 starts losing its charm. This can be partially blamed on the AI leading you into the same character combinations a majority of the time. There is a bit of undeserved joy that borders on sadism when new dialogue is heard after a dozen or so tournaments.
Placing in the tournaments unlocks Inventory Tokens which can be used to buy decks, tokens, and tables in the theme of each respective personality. Play with a full theme and the Inventory takes on aspects of that theme such as the Sam & Max theme turn the bar into a Private Eye’s office noir style. Each theme has a unique winning cut-scene and non standard way for the cast to get booted from the table when they bust like Max summoning the Necronomicon or GLaDOS using portals.
The actual poker gameplay of Poker Night 2 is almost as barebones as you can get. Every tournament is no limit with twenty thousand buy in with the only variation being the players choice in either Texas or Omaha Hold’em and the deck, chips, and table felt used. There is no multiplayer option, local or online, which is a damn shame in this day and age. Poker is a social game and while it is understandable the need to control the players for the cast interactions something could have been done to allow even some kind of limited multiplayer. Gamers looking for poker action have many other more full featured titles to choose from on just about any platform which leaves this as a game for people that want to experience the cast interactions.
I can’t attest for the other versions of the game but the XBLA version was riddled with technical issues. The game would semi lock up when changing between theme items or popping achievements. Hitting the guide button would bring up the guide after about 5 seconds and once back in the game, it would unlock. There was also a very strange issue of not being able to play on my Xbox 360 Slim console with a hard drive in it. Pressing start on the Please Press Start screen would leave it in a state of constantly saying Connecting in the bottom right. Once the hard drive was removed and the game moved to the 4gb internal memory, I could easily get into the game.
At 10 dollars for the console version, Poker Night 2 is hard to recommend. The 5 dollar price tag on the Steam version seems more appropriate for the package as its targeted audience is those looking for witty references rather than an engaging game of poker. Technical glitches, barebones features, and a lack of variety in dialogue bring down a game that is filled with charm, great voice work, and creativity that we can only get from top notch studios like Telltale Games.