Poker Night 2 (XBLA) Review


Another night of chips and chat.

The original Poker Night at the Inventory had a fairly simple premise: getting a bunch of video game characters from different franchises together to tell stories and interact. Like the original, Poker Night 2 is really more about the conversation than the cards, and the table talk is the highlight of the experience. It’s not a poker game for the hardcore, but those who enjoy the characters will find it amusing.

The players in Poker Night 2 consist of Brock Sampson from The Venture Brothers, Claptrap from the Borderlands games, Ash from Army of Darkness and Sam from the Sam & Max series. Glados from Portal is the dealer, which is a perfect choice because it gives her the opportunity to mock all of the contestants (but mostly just me).

Poker Night 2 features two variants on the game, Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha. It begins with a short description of Hold ‘Em, which is the default game. There is a description and instructions for Omaha as well, although I had to dig through the menu to find it. The game is a series of tournaments, each with a $20,000 buy-in. The objective is simple: be the one with all the chips at the end of the game.

The presentation is good, and the game flows smoothly. The player’s cards appear in the lower right portion of the screen, with any actions to be performed (check, raise, fold) on the left. Across the top of the screen are the names of the remaining players and the chip counts for each. When in a showdown, win probability percentages are displayed for each player still in the hand, much like when watching poker on TV.

During the hands, players will talk amongst each other, which is really the point of the game. More so than being a poker simulator, the game is an opportunity to hear Brock and Ash trade war stories, or Claptrap attempt to convince Sam that first person shooters are the way to go. Occasionally Glados jumps into the discussion, usually to make a jab at one of the characters or the player. The writing for the conversations is good, and over the course of several hours I rarely heard repeats.

As a poker game, Poker Night 2 is solid, but certainly not something that would be confused with a hardcore poker sim. Often a player will be eliminated on the first hand of the tournament, having gone all-in with a fairly weak hand. In one instance, one of the characters made a bet that would put me almost all-in to match. When I did go all-in, they folded, essentially folding to their own bet. The poker play is serviceable, but it’s still secondary to the character interaction. Each character has tells that will give information on the strength of their hand, and tells can be made more prevalent by purchasing drinks for the cast.

Does this hat make my chin look fat?

Depending on where the player finishes in tournaments, tokens are awarded that can be used to purchase chips, decks and felts themed for each contestant in the game. During play, three challenges will be presented. Once they are completed, in the next tournament one of the characters will place a special bounty item into the pot, and if the player wins that tournament they get the item, which unlocks things like avatar awards and Borderlands 2 character skins.

Technically, Poker Night 2 feels like a quick port of a PC game. Frame rate issues are frequent, even on the opening load screen. There is occasional texture pop, and for some reason the in-game menu occasionally takes so long to load that a few times I thought the game had frozen. Aside from those issues the game looks good, and purchasing themed items will change the look, as well as the inventory itself.

The conversations in Poker Night 2 are fun, and it fits the feeling of playing a poker game with these characters. For 800 points though, the game falls into a sort of middle ground where it’s hard to fully recommend. For those looking for Borderlands 2 unlocks and some fun conversations it’s not a bad game, but in general it feels like more of a fun diversion than a full experience. It’s a good time, but most will be better off waiting for a sale before they go all-in on this one.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Written by
Dave enjoys playing video games almost as much as he enjoys buying video games. What his wife calls an "online shopping addiction" he calls "building a library". When he's not digging through the backlog he's hunting for loot in Diablo or wondering when the next Professor Layton game is coming.