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Reel Deal Live!

Score: 55%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Phantom EFX
Developer: Phantom EFX
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - Many
Genre: Online/ Card Games/ MMORPG

Graphics & Sound:

Phantom EFX has recently released its new online Casino MMO, Reel Deal Live!, for all of those fans that don't necessarily want to spend real money, but still want to enjoy the gambling experience. Like many casual games on the market, the visuals of this title are decent, but nothing that will push the limits of your eye candy button. The environments are pleasing and definitely make you feel as if you are walking through a real casino, however. The character models are a bit on the low-end side of things, with a fairly cartoony nature. However, during your character creation screen, you can customize your avatar to your liking using different sizes, hair styles, and accessories.

On the casino floor, the close-ups of the gaming tables look nice and really give you an authentic feeling, but the slot machines are even prettier. There are a wide variety of slots in Reel Deal Live! with a number of different themes and each looks and sounds great. The only problem that I had with the slots is that the visual reference to the lines wasn't very obvious on the machines themselves (but could be seen within external screens). I should add that there was a problem with the graphics once in a while, where cards showed up face-side-up instead of down, revealing your draw card, for example, giving you a huge advantage for some hands.

The environmental audio present in the game had a very pleasant ambiance as well. Admittedly, it is a bit forgettable and the audio in general could be turned off completely without any repercussions. There are very limited voiceovers present as well, and they sound fine.


Reel Deal Live! is the first online MMO-style gambler to hit the market, and it does a pretty good job of authenticating the casino lifestyle. Allowing you to walk around an entire casino helps to totally immerse you in the gaming experience, going above and beyond typical card and gaming videogames and their select-from-a-list game selection screens. Being able to physically go up to a table and join others playing is a key ingredient to the MMO experience, but there didn't seem to be a lot of people playing at the same time as I was able to join the network. Of course, the title's gaming interface is still typical of standard gaming titles with its 2D point-and-click interface, so users of other software will still feel right at home.

The interactive MMO elements of Reel Deal Live! consist of things like building guilds and accomplishing quests. For those who may not be up to speed on MMO (or Massively Multiplayer Online) gaming, you are actually sharing your online experience with other real human players, and you can walk around the casino together, chat, or even form social groups called guilds. Being in a guild allows you to not only show that you are part of a group, but also allows you to attempt special quests that are only available to guilds. Quests are given out by the pit bosses, range in difficulty, and typical quests consist of scoring a certain number of credits on a particular game, for example. Upon completing the quest, you will be given rewards and can even be considered a VIP. You can also compete in Tournaments, although at the time of this writing only Slots were available for this bonus mode.

Reel Deal Live! has a very wide variety of games available throughout the casino, but mostly consists of table games and slot machines. The slots are fun, but also quite repetitive and (in my opinion) uninspiring. Unfortunately, other than deciding how much to bet, there isn't much too them. With that said, however, the visuals and the audio of each and every slot machine are very authentic-looking/sounding and really make you feel like you're sitting down in front of a one-armed bandit. There are also specials and bonuses. The table games range from multiple types of poker to roulette and craps. These were by far the most enjoyable gaming experiences for me, but at the same time, I was completely lost sitting down at table games that I've never played before. Most were quite easy to figure out, but they weren't necessarily intuitive all of the time.

You'll also eventually be able to take a crack at games like Bingo or even take a walk into the sports and racing betting rooms, although some extra rooms were not available at the time of this review. The sports betting is quite interesting because unlike most casino games on the market that offer fake horse racing or other similar simulated events, Reel Deal Live! uses actual real-world games from major sporting events. For example, you can drop in and bet on tonight's NBA games or come football season, pick the over-under on your favorite team's games.

Within the Reel Deal Live! universe, you will be allowed to use either Real World (RW) or Dream World (DW) odds as well. The difference is that in the Dream World, you win a lot more often, but there is something more satisfying about betting your RW money. Of course, this money is only called Real World. Rest assured that no actual money changes hands other than your monthly subscription fees.

Now, while Reel Deal Live! is certainly an entertaining title, I have to admit a certain level of frustration while trying to play. Hopefully these issues will be worked out as the game matures, but as of the time of this review, I had a lot of server issues to deal with, either being kicked off or not being able to connect. On top of that, when the connection was dropped while at a table, the only way to quit out was by using Windows' CTRL+ALT+DEL and kill the game outright. Another HUGE annoyance for me was that there was a constant barrage of updates at times when you wanted to connect. These downloads can be hundreds (or even thousands) of files, consisting of a fair amount of MB, making the download times and subsequent installing of those updates quite lengthy in time. In fact, the initial updates after you purchase and install for the first time will likely take all night, so be prepared. Finally, some of the loading times while in-game and changing from table to floor or vice versa sometimes take a while. Other times, these transitions are very quick.


Reel Deal Live! is very easy to get into and quite easy to understand... for the most part. While it's true that anyone, young or old, computer-savvy or not, should be able to get the basics immediately, some of the games and interfaces aren't exactly as user-friendly as they should be. Sitting down at a slot machine is a likely good candidate for a first stop to get the hang of a very easy to learn interface.

Tables sometimes are a bit more frustrating because there are sometimes many places that look clickable but aren't. My biggest frustration, however, comes with the fact that trying to bet sometimes doesn't work and seemingly nothing you click on does anything, even when you have money in your account. This may or may not be related to server issues, but it was annoying nonetheless.

It certainly would have been nice to get a bit more help when playing Reel Deal Live!, both in the games themselves and within the extras that can be found around the casino, like the Tournaments and the Guilds. Having a meeting place for wannabe guild members would have been a start. The interface sometimes felt a bit clunky too, which may add to the difficulty of those who maybe aren't used to computer games.

Game Mechanics:

Like many casual games, Reel Deal Live! starts you off with a basic tutorial on movement and basic clicking mechanics. Controlling your character is quite easy and approachable for any skill level, although anyone used to controlling computer characters with WASD will likely find that the (A) and (D) keys are used to turn instead of strafe, which can be hard to get used to. What I found disturbing, however, was that there was a serious lack of overall instructions in the game, as tutorials for individual games and casino features would have been much more helpful instead of having to forcefully figure things out. Because of this, the interface lacks a lot of poise, which distracts from the gameplay quite a bit.

Aside from that, Reel Deal Live! plays pretty well. The inclusion of not only slots and table games, but sports betting and MMO-specific things like guilds and quests, makes this title entertaining for all. Best of all, it is free to play (aside from the monthly fees) as there is no real betting involved, so you don't have to explain to anyone close to you why you lost the farm gambling online.

If you are looking for a casual way to play at the casino but either can't afford it or live too far away, Reel Deal Live! may be just want you are looking for. Just be warned that like many MMOs that hit the market, the frequent updates may be a bit of a turn-off. The server disconnects are the most frustrating part however, and they are inexcusable. If you can put up with these frustrations, then give this one a try.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:

AMD, Celeron or Pentium IV 1GHz; 1.5 GB Memory (XP) / 2 GB Memory (Vista); DirectX 9.0c or newer 3D Graphics Card*; Windows XP (32 bit) or newer; 3GB Free Hard Disk space; Broad Band connection (Cable/DSL); Mouse - Keyboard; Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible; DirectX 9.0c or newer

* note older Intel chipsets found in laptops and desktops may not be DirectX 9.0c compatible


Test System:

Dell Vostro 1700 Laptop: Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T7100; Dual 1.8 GHz Processors; 2 GB RAM; NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated