Telltale poker mash-up well worth the budget price point.
Telltale Games have made something of a name for themselves for successfully resurrecting the old point and click adventure games. They’ve brought us back old stalwarts like Sam & Max and Monkey Island, as well as new properties like the Strongbad’s Games for Attractive People. So it was a bit of a surprise when they announced that their next game was going to be… poker?
Poker Night at the Inventory is a budget title where you play Texas Hold-Em style poker. In Texas Hold-Em each player is dealt two cards face down and there’s a round of betting. Then, 3 cards are laid face up in the middle of the table that everyone uses (the flop) with another round of betting. This is followed up by two more rounds where only 1 card is dealt face up in the middle of the table, followed by 2 more rounds of betting (the turn & the river). With those 7 cards you’re hoping to have the best 5 card hand at the table.
Telltale certainly garnered a lot of “huh?” looks when they first announced Poker Night at the Inventory. Especially when bundled with the cast of characters you play against, which come from all over the place. And not only from the Telltale universe either. In a recent interview the developer said the game had four programmers and five lawyers, which isn’t hard to believe.
First we have Max, the “rabbity-thing” from the Sam and Max adventure games. Sitting to his left is Strongbad, the lucha-mask wearing character from the Homestar Runner online comic. Then there’s the Heavy Machine Gunner from the uber popular squad-based 1st person shooter Team Fortress 2 from Valve Software. Finally there’s Tycho from Penny Arcade.
Obviously the big draw here are the characters that join you at the poker table, since listening to them banter on is what makes the game worth playing. The dialogue from these four is heavy and varied. They range from short quips when checking or raising to long stories between multiple characters that may last an entire hand. Each of their unique personalities shine through when they’re speaking and more than a few times I caught myself laughing out loud, like when the Russian heavy machine gunner said his favorite movie was “the first 20 minutes of Rocky IV.”
The major problem with Telltale hanging their hat on the table banter is that once it starts to recycle itself it’ll get old fast. The stories are funny to be sure, but that’s not going to be the case after you’ve heard it 10 times. In that respect the game has a sort of built in shelf date with players. Luckily I’ve played about 3 hours worth and while the short quips of raising and folding have repeated none of the stories have yet… so far.
It’s a good thing this is a budget title at only $4.99 since there’s nothing outside the one single game mode. You play a Texas Hold-Em tournament against those 4 characters. After you win or lose you can play again against the same characters. No multi-player or anything like that. You can unlock new table and card graphics, but those are just cosmetic changes. Also, the game will show you the rules of Hold-Em but not really how to play, so don’t expect to learn strategy or anything here.
If Telltale were trying to justify a higher price point when the same package it’d be a tough sell no doubt. But the price of entry is low enough that you easily get your money worth here. The banter is genuinely funny and it’s still weird to see characters from so far and wide come together for a game. As a diversion or break from heavier games Poker Night at the Inventory works wonders.