An enjoyable game of poker comes down to who you’re playing with, and TellTale understands this. Their latest iOS release is Poker Night 2 which provides five personality filled characters from other games to be your poker buddies. There’s Claptrap (Borderlands 2), Brock Samson (The Venture Bros.), Ash Williams (Army of Darkness), Sam (Sam and Max series), and the dealer is GLaDOS (Portal series). All five fully interact with one another as you play each hand and provide you with witty banter, and one lively game of poker. The more familiar you are with the characters, the more amusing the game is, and you can catch up on any you’re unfamiliar with by checking out an episode of The Venture Brothers, watching the Claptrap Borderlands webisode, viewing Ash’s best Army of Darkness quotes, seeing a Sam & Max game trailer, and discovering GLaDOS’ best Portal quotes.
Once you’re caught up on any of the characters you don’t know, it’s time to pull up a seat at the table, and get ready to enjoy a game of poker like no other. It’s such a great idea to combine five different characters together who have never interacted before. The idea is explored in Star Trek: TNG when Data plays poker with Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton to explore the interaction of three of science’s greatest minds, while exploring the different facets of humanity. Each character in Poker Nights 2 isn’t on that level, but they’re positioned for considerable humor, and unexpected interaction. They dive more into each other as the players dwindle in a tournament for more back and forth questions, storytelling, and judgment based on each character’s unique circumstances, history, and personality.
The main highlight of the game is that it’s a bit like a TV show in its own right as you can just sit back and enjoy even after folding on a particular hand. The game of poker, whether it’s Texas Hold ‘em or Omaha Hold ‘em included in the game, has been seen before, but it’s the characters that make Poker Nights 2 stand out. Each hand is a treat as you don’t know what’s coming next, and it really livens up the classic game. GLaDOS as dealer infuses significant charm and humor as well, and you can be completely immersed in the digital poker world. Since the game is from TellTale, it comes complete with deluxe 3D visuals and animations to deliver each character completely fluid and authentic. The main problem is that there’s not an infinite supply of quotes, and the game becomes slow moving when a repetitive sequence comes across with no way to skip lines.
Beyond who you’re playing with, the main game of poker is exceptionally well designed to the point that difficulty levels aren’t required. Each player has their own tendencies, and it’s great to see them play out especially once the table thins out. Each hand you decide to play involves so much strategy with the unique, but relatively predictable ways the other players play. The game is set-up as multiple tournaments, and there are plenty of unlockables tied to each character’s origin with new decks, cards, and tables to collect with tokens from your winnings. If you unlock all three from a particular series, you unlock an entire themed room. There’s also a missions system with three objectives at a time to complete to unlock a special bounty from each player’s world. It all adds to the replay factor which is surprisingly high for just a poker game, and the entire experience does such a good job of drawing you back.
Poker Night 2 ($4.99, Universal) is an exceptional piece of entertainment that offers so many facets to enjoy making it a should buy whether you’re big fan of the characters, or just simply briefed on them.