By: Michael Dao
Crossovers have always been popular. When you get your metaphorical peanut butter into my chocolate, and I get my metaphorical chocolate into your peanut butter, it’s just better. That being said, crossovers can work either really well, or rather poorly. Someone actually wrote a book that mixed the universes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the X-Men. That sounds like the worst idea in the entire panoply of bad ideas, but the Amazon reviews actually state that it’s not an entirely terrible read. More recently, there was the Archer slash Bob’s Burgers crossover that a lot of people seemed to enjoy. A discussion about why anyone would voluntarily watch Bob’s Burgers not at gunpoint is beyond the scope of this review, as I feel that Bob’s Burgers is a bad show and that people who watch it should feel bad, but it was popular. [*editor’s note: Bob’s Burgers is amazing] So Telltale Games, creator of the much lauded The Walking Dead series of games and other adventure games such as Back to the Future, takes a break from all of their adventuring and brings us Poker Night 2, which, as the title suggests, is a poker game.
Somehow, I had missed the first Poker Night game, entitled, Poker Night At The Inventory. The concept remains the same, the developers at Telltale wanted to create an experience that detailed what popular characters did when they were “off,” and the first iteration of the game featured Max from Sam and Max, Strongbad from the Homestar Runner site, The Heavy from Team Fortress 2, and Tycho from Penny Arcade. The draw of the game would be getting to see characters from assorted and disparate universes interact like normal people. Well, as normal as is possible. Poker Night 2 features a new cast. The players opponents this time around are Brock Samson from The Venture Brothers, Claptrap from Borderlands, Ash Williams of the Evil Dead, and finally, Sam from Sam and Max. And the dealer is GLaDOS. Hijinks will ensue.
The game plays as one would expect it to – you play poker against these characters, and included are two types of poker games, Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha. The player participates in a tournament with a $20,000 buy-in, and then works to eliminate the other players at the table. The graphics are competent, and all of the characters are modelled well. The venue is also interesting enough to look at, a bar called The Inventory. Mad Moxxi from Borderlands serves as a bartender, and Max, Sam’s sidekick occupies a nearby table and occasionally chimes in.
The big draw of a game like Poker Night 2 would be the characters and their interactions with each other. Let’s be honest here, no one is going to be playing this game because of the hard hitting poker simulation that it offers. (To be fair, I wouldn’t know what a hard hitting poker simulation would even look like.) In this regard, it does succeed. The voice acting is fantastic, and the writing is absolutely top notch, and had me quite literally, laughing out loud at points. The absolute best thing about the game is how the characters will continue to play poker while the dialogue occurs. It’s a very small feature, sure, but I feel that if one of the AI players had to finish what they were saying before deciding to check or bet, I would want to murder the Poker Night team at Telltale in their beds at night.
Even though the dialogue is both fantastically written and acted, the game suffers from the same thing that every scripted experience suffers from: repetition. It took until my third tournament that a sequence was repeated, and there are some actions that have few too many scenes and animations – for example, when a player wins a pot. If I have to see Ash pull out his shotgun and use it to rake in all of his chips another time while making some sort of comment that doesn’t come to mind only because I’ve repressed it, I may scream.
Poker Night 2 is currently available for Xbox Live, PSN, and PC and Mac on Steam.