Not even pirates can keep this ship from running aground

Argh, matey! Ready for more Texas hold’em poker? Well, read on anyway. Developer Geewa sets sail for Facebook with Pirates Poker, attempting to carve out a niche in an overcrowded game space. Does this ship of fools make it safely to shore, or should players simply swab the deck with it?

If there’s one thing that can be said about Pirates Poker it’s that it does a more than thorough job walking beginners through the basics of Texas hold’em gameplay. The game is divided into individual locations, using storyboards to give the experience some semblance of an adventure feel. You can skip past the tutorial if you’re already familiar with the mechanics, and hopping into a game is fast and fairly painless.

Pirates Poker

In spite of its adventure premise, Pirates Poker is still a multiplayer-centric game. Rather than sifting through lobbies, you’ll simply enter a location and are randomly matched with other players. At the outset, only a prison locale is available for play, and you’ll need to earn enough winnings to unlock additional tables. It’s a neat RPG-lite mechanic, but unlocking the new locales can be slow-going.

If, somehow, you’re new to Texas hold’em poker, the gameplay works thusly: each player is dealt two cards face down, and five additional cards are dealt face up for all players to play off of. Bets are made and raised, and typical poker hands apply. Pirates Poker doesn’t add anything new to the formula, and the timer system folks are familiar with from a slew of other games is present here as well. The premise is quaint and the progression system nifty, but when all is said and done, Pirates Poker is still just a barebones game of Texas hold’em poker.

Unfortunately, the pretty visuals come at a price. The graphics lag significantly, making every check and bet a laborious process. When pirates knock on the table to signify their check, the animation occurs seconds after you hear the sound. The slog of gameplay is exacerbated by the silence between each play. There’s no music whatsoever, and the sound effects are sparse and generic.

Pirates Poker

There are, however, some basic options for customizing your pirate avatar, and backgrounds are visually pleasing. Full-screen mode doesn’t actually fill the complete screen, though, and the glaring stares from your pirate opponents can be freakishly unsettling.

Setting aside the game’s technical flaws, Pirates Poker is a novel attempt to spruce up an otherwise exhausted game of cards. However, unlocking new tables feels like a grind, and the daily gift of chips is paltry. The snail’s pace with which a single hand moves does little to inspire an investment of Facebook credits. Social features are present, and a handful of smart design choices add a bit of shine to the overall package. But the bells and whistles simply aren’t enough to hide the dullness of this humdrum game of Texas hold’em poker.