Poker Night 2 (hereby declared as PN2) is, as most would probably be capable of deducing, the direct sequel to Poker Night at The Inventory (it’s still at The Inventory, but I guess that’s not as important now), and this time around we’re dealing with Claptrap (Borderlands), Sam (Sam and Max), Ash Williams (The Evil Dead series) and Brock Samson (The Venture Bros). Along with GLaDOS (Portal), these are the characters you’ll see the most of, with cameos by Captain Reginald Van Winslow (Tales of Monkey Island), Mad Moxxie (Borderlands) and Max (Sam and Max). As “The Player”, players are forced to endure less-than-exciting hands of poker to listen to the banter between this motley crew, which is really the only reason to play Poker Night 2, and even then… eh.
First off, this is primarily a Texas hold ’em game. Anyone who is a dedicated fan of the card game itself and just must play a computerised version should look far away from PN2; the process of calling, checking, betting, folding, raising, all-in-ing and inevitably failing feels more drudgingly boring than any real-life rendition I’ve played. Not just that, but the opponents never act in a convincingly authentic manner and never seem to put any thought put into their moves. Which makes sense since they’re not actually human, but still. Seriously, the whole tournament-gameplay-thing is very, very ‘eh’.
Absolutely the only reason to play PN2 is for the character interactions, which are genuinely amusing… for a while. Even without prior familiarity, these characters can force some chuckles out of you. I have still never seen a single frame of The Venture Bros. (which is a TV show, apparently?), but Brock Samson is probably the funniest factor of this title, possibly due to the one and only Patrick “the Tick” Warburton being his voice actor. On a similar note, it just didn’t seem right that when Ash opens his mouth, Bruce Campbell’s voice doesn’t come out. It feels awkward that someone else voices him, and maybe that’s why his lines never really worked for me. Bow chicka bow wow.
Not that I can take too much notice of this, since each line I had once found humourous is now spat out every few minutes. A joke may be great the first time you hear it, but doesn’t just lose its flavour after unwarranted repeats–it starts to really get on the nerves of those forced to endure it. Sure, it was funny when GLaDOS questioned my intelligence that first time, or Claptrap said something dark in a seemingly contradictory positive tone, but it all quickly becomes clockwork. You know when to expect a “sick burn” or an insult, and soon enough the exact same lines are repeated and it’s all just too much. It feels like your opponents are all impersonating the guy from Memento, constantly forgetting what just happened and re-telling the same damn stories, asking the same damn questions. Eh.
Sure, winning tournaments in PN2 grants you coins you can spend to unlock card and coin designs and table felts, but… really? Is this really how you want to be repaid for investing the time and effort? Congratulations, you won five tournaments, now you can afford the Portal table felt, so you can play another tournament with… a different table felt! No, thanks. Really. There’s also certain requirements that if met grant you the chance to win your opponents’ bounties, but this system feels totally out of place in a game of poker. The gameplay is really so damn tedious and despite the presence of some great characters, the conversation rapidly becomes equally so. Poker Night 2 is ultimately a prime example of ‘eh‘.
Take into account the low price, and that that money is going to the pocket of one Telltale Games, and you might consider Poker Night 2 for a bit of a laugh. Ignoring the fact that Poker Night 1 had the better cast, in my opinion. Just don’t expect to be amused for more than a couple hours. It’s cheaper than going to the movies. So that’s… something.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Poker Night 2 by Telltale Games.