"Reraising Franchises and Cashing In"
Whether it's the need to for a change of pace with a casual game against the A.I. or the sole desire to unlock a certain item and get back to the first-person bloodbath as soon as possible, fans of all walks of life are buying Poker Night 2 from Telltale Games. The follow up to their original, Poker Night at the Inventory,
PN2 is a single-player poker game pitting you against a delightful cast of characters from cult classic films, animation, and video games. Replacing the old table's cast of characters are Dr. Venture's short-tempered Brock Sampson of The Venture Brothers, the very loud robot known as Claptrap from Borderlands, Ash "Hail to the king, baby" Williams from the Evil Dead and Army of Darkness films, and Sam from the classic video game franchise Sam & Max taking over for his partner who played in the original. In an evil twist: GLaDOS from the Portal franchise is your dealer... and heckler, who excels at both. The only returning character is Tycho, one half of the infamous Penny Arcade duo, though Max sticks close like any loyal sidekick would, despite his habit of slinging insults at Sam just as easily as he would the other players. A few others make brief cameo appearances, and your bartender, Mad Moxxi, will be serving drinks along with a couple of free cups of eye candy.
As with the original title, personality, dialogue, characters, and a set of top-notch voice actors are the heart of the game. This time they even move the story forward, as there is now a light storyline mixed in with the seemingly random banter at the table. You, the player, are a quiet nobody in life who somehow ended up at a table with a handful of superstars despite The Inventory and Captain Patrick Van Winslow's decision to increase the buy in to $20,000. It isn't long before you're playing and engrossed in a discussion with Ash Williams (voiced by Danny Webber) about his confusion as to why so many people know of his exploits. He's told about his films and line of toys and collectibles before being given advice to get a lawyer over merchandising rights by Brock Sampson (Patrick Warburton). Soon Brock responds to your reraise by screaming and pounding the table as one of his eyes twitches uncontrollably, irked both by you and the sound of Claptrap (David Eddings) who remains true to the Borderlands character by showing far too much enthusiasm every time he speaks. Tycho is voiced by Voice actors David Nowlin and David Boat play Sam and Max and would easily steal the show as they play off each other like two jazz musicians of smack talk, but thanks to GLaDOS (Ellen McLain), everyone is kept in check. While GLaDOS is designed to insult and discourage you as she does famously in Portal, everyone gets a large dose of the verbal beat down with hilarious results as each one responds accordingly.
Telltale Games' Poker Night 2's gameplay has been expanded to include the classic two-card Texas Hold 'em style and Omaha, where you must use two of the four cards given to each player. In addition to unlocking the coveted bounties that will in turn unlock items in different games, there are a series of unlockable theme decks, chips, and felt tables for the player to discover. Using the chips, deck, and felt from a single theme will alter the entire bar and poker room's appearance, as well as some of the outfits at the table. Poker "tells" which can show the strength or weakness of someone else's hand are added into the animations of the characters and can even be increased by using unlock points to buy them drinks.
The dialogue flows smoothly, and the poker game continues at a relaxed but steady pace while still allowing you to skip any hands you're not participating in. Bounty items are won as a prize from the table rather than the individual opponent, ending the necessity of knocking a specific player out to get a specific item or losing the opportunity to get it because someone else did. Having worked out all of the bugs of the original game, Telltale put efforts into what the industry calls "polish". They've made Poker Night 2 work infinitely better by making a series of small adjustments into a sequel that's easily better than the original.
GameDynamo's Score for Telltale Games' Poker Night 2 (PC)
Leaving San Diego and the newspaper business behind, I've spent almost a decade involved in L.A.'s gaming industry. Over the years I've played and even helped develop everything from PC and console titles to tabletop and card games. I'm currently writing a novel based on my experiences in the industry which should be available in late 2013.
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