Poker Night At The Inventory Is A Wasted Bet
By Gwendolyn L. Spelvin
Poker games tend to be a dime a dozen on the PC platform. No matter what branch of the genre players like, every possible variation is available in every conceivable option possible. Whether a player engages this betting pastime on a dedicated gaming site or from a title that allows for single play against a computer, there is nothing left to the imagination when it comes to this card genre.
The Poker Night At The Inventory series by Telltale Games attempts to recreate the poker wheel as if it is already broke. Their efforts merge popular franchise characters in crossover efforts that gives the illusion of a boys and girls night out over shit talking and bluffing in a semi-serious Texas Hold Em’ tournament. From an anthropomorphic perspective it does what it is supposed to do, and follows all of the rules.
However, it is a cheap cheesy licensing affair with severe problems. Telltale Games has put little insight or effort in ensuring this crop of licensed characters get the all-star treatment shared by its Lego titles. For an entity that has done quite a few dialogue speaking games, Poker Night At The Inventory sounds about as cohesive as Mushmouth from Fat Albert.
Using the original voice actors for dialogue instead of a cut, copy, and paste job is great. However, there isn’t enough dialogue to go around without recycling phrases every two minutes. In fact, table conversation among the characters becomes so irritably repetitive that it actually spoils the point and fun of playing cards.
Another point of contempt about the voice acting is the obvious lack of verbal personality that fails to translates into the way opponents play against you. Yes, the repetitive dialogue is very reminiscent of the properties your opponents are featured in yet are lost on translation in body movement, engagement, and any other interaction with each hand. Cut scenes also suffer from the same fate.
Plus, there are more bugs in this series than what you would find at a roach family reunion.
Lags are the craft brews sitting on the poker table downstairs at the inventory. Not even the very best gaming rig or the warp drive on the SS Enterprise could be enough to stop the slow spectacular lags that randomly pop up. But at least there is a nice Team Fortress 2 asset to stare at waiting on the speed to return to normal.
The computer tends to cheat in all of the entries; poor programming fails to allow the computer to identify, rank, and award hands appropriately. You could have a full house and your opponent two pair, and the opponent may win. If the player is winning the game will simply crash when there are two or less competitors at the table. There will be characters seated at the table, without the interface to bet on cards. Saving is impossible at that point, and players will have to restart and work their way back to their previous levels from scratch.
Betting is an absolute joke. More often than not, players will have to overbid and force folds, as the opponents act as if they are cheap and can’t afford to bet. Due to this, it is not uncommon to see five to fifteen straight folded hands by everyone seated against you. The lack of a proficient AI voids any hope of calculating odds appropriately.
Essentially, the opponents at the table fail to play cards in a manner that would suggest odds would be calculated and/or that a strong hand held by players will effectively win the pot after blundering rivers. That creates an idiot effect against your players, making competitive play boiled down to random happenstance than pure skill.
The end result is a strictly satirical poker extravaganza that caters more to the character dialogue and bantering with one another rather than the actual task at hand. Degrees of skill are null and void and place everyone, including the most expert of players, at novice level. Poker Night At The Inventory is not a serious game like World Series Of Poker or any other contemporary peer entry.
The only option available to indulge the nuances of each hand is to defensively bet and engage the boredom for a limited amount of time and watch the animated sequences and repetitive actions, before moving on. Treat it as a short animation and the frustration level will dissolve in each hand.
In the end of this poker debacle, Telltale Games leaves a non-competitive, non-serious poker soiree that is more interested in selling and promoting the licensed properties than the bets on the table. And that is great for those that have been waiting to see the likes of Brock Samson show up in a video game. However, when Brock is merely a shell of himself that you would see on Venture Bros. and lacks any pertinent cut scene that would entice curiosity for a night out at the inventory, it is a wasted effort.
I have no sympathy for Telltale Games for this drivel. Sometimes you have to know when to go, and know when to fold. The Poker Night At The Inventory series is nothing more than a profitable big bluff for the developers with little payout for the players.
Just walk away from the table.