Poker Night at the Inventory Review (PC, Steam)
Posted by Jim Cook, Nov 23, 2010 08:07
If you were to ask a knowledgable customer how much they would pay for a Texas Hold ’Em video game at this time, at least some of them would probably say "Nothing, because there are freeware poker games out there." But what if you used a basic poker game as the means of delivering a lot of laughs, as the table is now home to a card game as played by you, Max (Sam & Max), Tycho Brahe (Penny Arcade), Heavy Weapons Guy (Team Fortress 2), and Strong Bad (Homestar Runner) with all of them having a lot of voice work and interactions with one another? That’s what Poker Night at the Inventory offers, and if you’re willing to accept that most of your money is going toward this comedy you’ll find a lot to enjoy.
Set in what appears to be a hidden speakeasy, you get to go up against these colorful characters in a no-limits poker game. While the game itself is obviously functional (though some more familiar than I with the full rules of Poker seem to have caught a few possible errors, they aren’t show-stopping ones), the real focus is on what the characters say and do; sometimes they just make quick comments on your betting habits but in other cases they’ll share stories with one another. Max might ask Tycho about how common crime is where he lives and Tycho will explain it’s about average... until Max notes he’d accept the behavior of evil corporations spreading suffering to an entire generation as ’crime’, at which point Tycho notes that in that case there are chain stores selling used videogames are all over the region. Stories like that are joined by quicker punchlines as well, keeping the humor varied and well paced.
These interactions are the real reason to keep playing, both because they’re hilarious and the underlying poker game is only competent and no-frills in nature. You’re always playing with a $10,000 bankroll each session, and while you can customize the appearance of the cards and table with various themes there are no real changes to the rules. You’re really buying a very diverse comedy routine, and on that basis Poker Night is a success. The characters are immediately recognizable for who they are, have a lot to say, and generally act true to who they are; Max makes random inane comments, Heavy alternates between being gruff and proud, Tycho is sarcastic and nerdy at the same time, and Strong Bad is his usual blustering self. They make for a great act together, one that should draw plenty of laughs.
On a side note, you can win some Team Fortress 2 items, all of them cosmetic (e.g. no effect on the outcome of the game) in nature. Some of them look pretty cool and they’re a great bonus if you’re a TF2 player, though Poker Night stands well enough on its own even without this perk. The real appeal of this product is the comedy, but the new items are a nice little addition all the same.
Poker Night at the Inventory continues Telltale’s tradition of offering games that are really just a way of delivering a great story. The card game at hand is okay, but it’s merely an excuse to hang out with Max, Strong Bad, Tycho, and the Heavy while they banter with one another. If you’re up for that, Poker Night is a great choice and your $5 will buy plenty of laughs!
Rating: 4.5, votes: 2