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Poker Night at the Inventory

Score: 85%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Card Games/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:

Poker Night at the Inventory is an odd selection from Telltale Games, a company known mostly for their licensed adventure titles featuring everyone from Wallace & Gromit to the Homestar Runner crew to the latest editions of Sam & Max. Well, Poker Night at the Inventory deals heavily with licensed characters, but it isn't an adventure game at all. As implied by the name, its a poker game.

As always, Telltale does its best work when dealing with licenses and portraying them in their original styles. Well, they've proven that fact when dealing with characters within their own worlds, but The Inventory bridges those worlds and puts drastically different looking characters at the same table. It's odd to see the unusual looking Max in the same location as The Heavy from Team Fortress 2, as well as the Flash-cartoon styled Strong Bad and cel-shaded Tycho from Penny Arcade. It's akin to seeing cartoons walking alongside live-action actors in films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and it works really well.

Accompanying the great character models are their voices. Max sounds like he does in the other Telltale games featuring him, while Strong Bad sounds like he is voiced by Matt Chapman (and if he isn't, then the stand-in does a great job. The Heavy also sounds appropriate and, while Poker Night at the Inventory is the first time Tycho has been voiced, Andrew "Kid Beyond" Chaikin seems to do a great job of finding just the right tone for the character.


Poker Night at the Inventory takes you to an underground club, The Inventory, that was established when a fear of banned gaming abounded. Now, the place is a sanctuary for whomever wants to play games. In particular, Poker Night at the Inventory lets you play Texas Hold'Em against the four popular game characters mentioned above.

Personally, I'm pretty bad at poker. Given enough games, I will typically break even, but I'm not practiced enough to know the best strategies concerning when the cards in your hand simply have no hope of winning, or when I should go for the long shot and attempt to win the big pot. That, combined with the fact that your opponents are A.I.-controlled and hard to read (this isn't a simple case of insult sword fighting after all), my win-loss ratio drastically changes, and into the red I go.

Quite frankly, while the driving force of the game is Texas Hold'Em and the card game plays out as it should, the real draw is being able to play opposite Max, The Heavy, Strong Bad and Tycho, and with that comes the hilarious dialogue that develops between the characters.

After losing big and early in one of my first rounds in Poker Night, I was surprisingly presented with the option to watch the rest of the game. This first watching allowed me to gain a lot of appreciation for the product and for the sheer amount of conversation the four characters could have with each other.

While I did hear several repeated conversations, for the most part, the game does a good job of supplying a steady stream of new topics for the characters to discuss. This, combined with a hefty collection of one-liners for the characters to say as they hold, call, raise or fold their hands, adds a lot to the natural feeling of the experience. I also found it a nice touch whenever the conversation would get interrupted because a hand played out, and the character talking would simply say "So as I was saying" and casually go back into the discussion. It's a little thing, but it was done well.

Where the game seems to break down is the fact that all there really is, gameplay wise, is Texas Hold'Em, but considering the $5.00 price tag, Poker Night at the Inventory shouldn't have to do much more than it does to be impressive. What I'm hoping for is that Telltale will continue their episodic style with future "at the Inventory" episodes featuring other games, or maybe just more versions of poker with different characters.


Like I said above, Poker Night at the Inventory seems to raise the stakes some as far as difficulty is concerned when compared to other poker videogames. I found myself losing far more games than I won, and your opponents aren't all that easy to read. Where this an easier game, the characters' tells, if they have any, would be easier to spot and easier to predict. As it were, despite watching pretty much every game I played through to the end, even when I was taken out, I couldn't really discern any obvious patterns in the lines used when a character was raising or calling a bet. This makes sense, of course, if these characters are supposed to be top-notch poker players in their own right.

Game Mechanics:

While Poker Night at the Inventory does the poker thing well, it's the character interaction that really brings me back. The game really conveys the feeling of several friends just sitting around a poker table playing a few rounds. Of course, the money being thrown around is in the thousands, but since your character seems to have an unlimited supply, the stakes don't seem to be as meaningful as they should be. That is, unless you pay any attention to your overall score, which is updated after each game. Here you get stats on everything from the amount of money you've won and lost, your overall net winnings or losings, as well as how many face-offs you've been in and won. Once you start looking at these stats, the stakes of each game seem to matter a lot more, especially if there's any chance a friend could walk by and see how you've been doing.

Poker Night at the Inventory is a good overall experience, but it doesn't offer any kind of variety. The game only lets you play Texas Hold'Em and you will only ever play against the same four characters. That being said, what it does, it does well and considering the price, it could well be worth the cost. Just be mindful of what you are buying. Don't expect anything more than that one variety of poker and those four characters, however humorous they may be.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP / Vista / Windows 7, Pentium 4 clocked at 2.0 GHz or better Processor, 1 GB RAM, DirectX 8.1 Compatible Video Card with 256 MB RAM, DirectX (r): 9.0c or later, 100 MB Free Hard Disc Space, DirectX 8.1 Compatible Sound Card

Test System:

Windows 7 Ultimate, Intel i7 X980 3.33GHz, 12 GB RAM, Radeon HD 5870 Graphics Card, DirectX 9.0c

Related Links:

Microsoft Xbox 360 Splatterhouse Nintendo Wii Michael Jackson: The Experience

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