Poker Night 2 – PC
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: Apr 26, 2013
Genre: Cards, Gambling
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 4 of 5

I have to confess I never played the original Poker Night, but if it’s a fraction as good as Poker Night 2 then I might have to check it out. Poker games are nothing new and frankly they are a dime a dozen these days; most of which are even free to play, but you don’t come to Telltale’s pub for the cards. Poker Night 2 is about sitting around the felt table listening to your friends banter on about their lives, their games, and just about anything else you can think of. Poker becomes more of the diversion as you anxiously await each new story or piece of conversation; at least until you have heard all the tales and are struggling to knock out that last achievement or earn that final bounty.

Joining you at the table are Borderlands’ Claptrap, Sam & Max (Sam plays while Max provides ample comic relief), Brock Sampson (The Venture Bros. animated TV show) and Ash Williams (Army of Darkness), but some of the most biting commentary comes from your dealer, GLaDOS (Portal). These will be your opponents for the hours and hours of poker you are about to endure so you can be the fly on the wall for some of the best dialogue you’ll likely hear in a game this year. And it has to be good because that’s the real reason you play this game. The poker engine is serviceable, although the cards seem to be “not so random” at times, and the AI is questionable and there are even instances of the game not scoring hands correctly.

You can choose between traditional Texas Hold ‘em and Omaha Hold ‘em – basically Texas rules but with four cards getting dealt to each player thus increasing the chance of better hands by mixing any two from your hand with any three from the table. There is no human multiplayer or online modes, so it’s just you versus the AI for as long as you want to play. The conversation will dry up long before you have completed the game, although even 20-some hours in I am still hearing new stuff. The conversations flow realistically between all characters and even change based on the current people at the table, and if the game flow happens to break up a particular conversation it will resume quite naturally when the next hand is dealt.

Your game goals include an assortment of Steam achievements, in-game unlocks, as well as various bounties. To earn a bounty you first have to complete three random challenges then wait for a character to offer up a prized possession. Win the tournament to earn that item and unlock cool stuff in other related games. Console versions of the game will unlock Avatar items and themes while Steam users get Team Fortress 2 goodies and everyone gets Borderlands 2 stuff.

Unlocks for Poker Night 2 include new skins for cards, chips, and table designs that can be purchased with tokens earned for winning or coming in second in a tournemtn. You can mix and match these various elements from each of the characters games (or movie), but if you select them all for any one group the entire theme of the establishment will change. You will also get fun custom exit animations when a character “busts” and is removed from the game, then you can watch those characters lingering in the background, sitting at a table or perhaps chatting up Mad Moxxi, the bartender. Speaking of which, you can also spend your reward tokens on drinks that may “loosen up” the competition and change their play/betting style or perhaps reveal a “tell” for when they are bluffing.

I had a great time with Poker Night 2. I loved the art style and design of the game and while I’m not the biggest poker fan in the world, I had fun playing cards. But the real reason I stuck around longer than I probably should have was the hilarious banter, and even after I thought I had heard it all they keep coming up with something new. I wish they would do more characters, perhaps as DLC, and I wish they would patch a few glaring issues like some ridiculously insane bounty challenges that have nothing to do with real poker skills and everything to do with pure blind luck and grinding gameplay. They also needs to fix their controller support because the game won’t even start in Windows 8 if it detects a gamepad.

The game is only $5, and I can’t think of anything that is this much fun for that price. And depending on your system and the other games you play, those cross-game bounty unlocks may be worth the price of admission alone. For me, I came for the conversation and the characters and not so much for serious poker, and if you’re looking for the same thing then look no further than Poker Night 2 on PC/Steam, consoles and now on iOS.