Feb 26, 2006

PC Review: 'Telltale Texas Hold’ Em'

Poker Ladies. The sinuous ladies, that haunted my early youth. A sexy coin-op money-sink, that forced me to (illegally, according to my age at the time) enter seedy arcades in order to see badly-drawn manga-styled nude ladies doing naughty stuff. I did learn to play the American 52-card version of poker though, and I was only 13. Now, that’s something I call a good start in my life. And I owe it all to Poker Ladies. I could have of course waited for something more than a decade and enjoy their dancing for free in MAME, but that would have been too late. No one can pull through high school and university without decent poker skills, just like nowadays nobody can avoid stupidly watching Texas Hold’em tournaments on TV.

Telltale Texas Hold’Em is not on TV, it’s on the PC instead. It was actually the first game released by the (hopefully) adventure maestros of Telltale, and has been around for quite some time. It is apparently a poker game. Of the Texas Hold’Em variety. This of course is neither a serious gambler’s tutoring software instructor, nor a hardcore/ultra-powerful simulation. Even though Telltale Texas Hold’em does play a decent and varied poker game, its great appeal is the atmosphere and the characters. Characters and atmosphere in a poker game I hear you say? Well, yes. You’ll be playing against four lovingly animated and fully 3d characters, each sporting a unique personality and thus a unique playing style. Their mid-game banter is excellent, amusing and at times downright funny, their facial expressions are great, and the whole thing is well directed. The camera pans, cuts and zooms correctly, the players look suspiciously around, move their chips, Grandma talks about her dead husbands and Boris tries to be a quite desperate bully. Voice acting is superb, and really helps flesh out those four quirky characters you’ll be gambling against. Characters that are a testimony to Telltale’s origins: none other than the 90s Lucasarts adventures.

The most impressive part of this game is the variety and quantity of the dialog included. You’ll need to play for quite some time before some expressions start feeling overused and even after 25 hours of poker action you’ll still hear the odd unexpected line and/or joke. Great writing and smart programming make all this possible in a download that’s less than 20 megas. Unfortunately not much else is included in those less-than-20- megas. There is only one mode of play, only 4 characters to play against, one room to gamble in, one possible screen resolution and a too simple tutorial/introduction text.

On the other hand, Telltale Texas Hold ‘Em only costs $12.99,and will definitely provide you with hours and hours of mindless entertainment. After all, you will quickly learn when to fold, when to raise your bet, when to bluff or when to call the other characters’ bluff.

Visit the official website and have a look. Download the demo; it’s the least you can offer yourselves.

That’s a (seven) out of (ten)

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-Related Gnome's Lair articles: Telltale (brand new) news, More than 30 hand-picked free pc games, Apprentice Deluxe Review, Museum Monday #1, Call of Cthulhu and Warhammer video games features, Civilization 4 review, And Then There Were None Review.

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