Poker Night at The Inventory Review

Written by Joe Martin

December 2, 2010 // 7:38 a.m.

Tags: #poker #telltale

Companies: #telltale-games

Poker Night at The Inventory Review

Publisher: Telltale Games
Platform: PC, Mac
UK Price (as reviewed): £3.25 inc. VAT
US Price (as reviewed): $4.99 inc. VAT

It’s hard to know exactly how mean we should be to Poker Night at The Inventory, as its acute case of crapnessious terribilium is somewhat balanced out by how cheap it is. It costs less than £5 and that’s even before it goes on some ridiculous Steam sale or gets bundled in as pre-order incentive for a game you actually want. Surely the sense of value should negate the low quality?

Sadly, no. This is partly because Poker Night at The Inventory is that bad and partly because we’ve been spoiled by better and cheaper titles.

Poker Night at The Inventory is basically a game which simulates playing poker with people you don’t like and who aren’t very good at cards - if you do like them then the game will change that. At the start you’re lead to a poker table at fictionally esteemed private club, The Inventory, which is frequented by videogame icons. You’re sat at a table and forced into a night of gambling with Team Fortress 2’s Heavy, Penny Arcade’s Tycho, Telltale’s Max (of Sam and Max fame) and Strong Bad of...wherever Strong Bad is from..

Poker Night at The Inventory Review
Playing poker with a rabbit and a gimp; a nightmare made real

Supposedly this motley crew of characters are there to provide distraction and comic relief, talking amongst themselves and making witty threats or bluffs as you study your cards. It’s an interesting idea for breathing some modernity into a classic card game, but it’s let down by the simple fact that none of the cast are at all entertaining. The script is so transparent that we’re surprised the voice actors were even able to read the text. Tycho is especially bad and, in trying to play the role of an aloof and sarcastic genius, sounds more than ever like a pompous, self-important boor.

To make matters worse, there’s not enough variety in the script, and those flat, unconvincing performances start to loop like a broken cassette tape. Within four or five hands you’ve heard all the different ways that the cast has of declaring folds, calls or raises. We found ourselves going ‘all in’ again and again, just to alleviate the tedium of it all.

Poker Night at The Inventory Review
Oh, please shut up

Doing so, however, only revealed the final nail in the coffin – that the AI is as erratic and foolish as you’d expect 3/4s of the characters to be. Max, Strong Bad and The Heavy aren’t exactly renowned for their insight and intelligence – a fact proven every time you see one of them go 'all in' on a pair of twos or fluking hands on the river.

That might not sound like a big deal if you’re new to poker games, but it really is. No game yet has AI opponents who can act with the mix of impulsiveness and cautiousness of a human opponent (which is why online poker is so Poker Night at The Inventory Reviewpopular), but they try to come close. Telltale’s attempt doesn’t even get near to approximating this level of sophistication and doesn’t manage to hide it well either.

Further glitches and niggles abound: errors with the menu, the way that swears are bleeped out even when you tell them not to be, and the slow crawl of subtitles across the page that lag noticeably behind the speech.

Poker Night at The Inventory isn’t just a bad poker game. It's made worse than that on account of the irritating, grating and almost offensively boring characters. On top of that, it’s not even put together well. It’s a cheap game and it shows; unless you really want those TF2 unlocks, this is a game to avoid at all costs.

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