Wot I Think: Poker Night At The Inventory

By John Walker on November 24th, 2010 at 3:39 pm.

I probably shouldn't fart that loudly.

Telltale have released their all-star super-cheap poker game, Poker Night At The Inventory. Starring characters from a range of games, and including all their original voice actors, it’s a really fun idea. But is it also a fun game? I’ve been through an awful lot of its tournaments, and am ready to throw in my chips and tell you Wot I Think.

To communicate quite how weak Poker Night At The Inventory is, I’m afraid I’m going to have to occasionally use wanky poker language, which will annoy anyone who doesn’t care much about hold ‘em. But helpfully, Poker Night At The Inventory is also weak for anyone who doesn’t care much about hold ‘em. So for those who don’t know their hole cards from their double-gutshot straight draws, be assured that the fun of playing cards against Sam & Max’s Max, Homestar Runner’s Strong Bad, Team Fortress 2′s Red Heavy, and Penny Arcade’s Tycho, in a secret underground card game, lasts about as long as it takes for the dialogue to start repeating. About twenty minutes.

A lot of the lines are funny. Strong Bad and The Heavy frequently made me laugh the first time I heard their gags. Max is sadly poorly written for most of it, squawking rather than saying anything inventive, or making extremely laboured references to the Sam & Max episodes. And Tycho is just swearing in place of having anything witty to say. His character is an attempt at being sardonic, but mostly he seems to be appropriately criticising how un-fun the game is to play. Then swearing. (When he says “fuck this shit” it’s hard not to nod in agreement.)

But there are some good moments. The conversations between the characters can be surprising and funny, sometimes poking fun at the games they’re from, or the developers behind them. (Although I’ve not heard any reference to the failure of the Penny Arcade games, which is a tad elephantine.) But, of course, all this only counts for the first time you hear them. And they repeat very quickly. Often because there’s absolutely nothing in the game to tell it not to play the same conversation twice in a row. I am perhaps a little fed up of hearing Strong Bad and the Heavy discussing killing the King Of Town. You can turn down the amount of banter, but since it’s really the only thing the game’s got going for it, it seems self-defeating. It seems beyond insane that they didn’t have every actor record something like a hundred different ways for saying “fold”, “check”, “call” or “raise”. Each has so few that you hear them endlessly, quickly growing to loathe them.

Ultimately, as intriguing as it certainly is to have such iconic gaming characters all around one baize cloth, this is a poker game. When you’ve heard Max screech about chequer boards made of human bones for the fifth time, and listened to the Heavy and Strong Bad discuss boxing yet again, what you’re left with is the card game. And it’s beyond dreadful.

I just won a hand against the Heavy when he raised my all-in (um) with second-from-bottom pair, on a board covered in high cards. And this is on Difficult. They’ll bet absolutely any two cards, and will commit all their chips with any pair, no matter how weak.

Which makes it an awful lot like playing absolute beginners at poker. If you’re a reasonably experienced player, you’ll know the horror of a first-timer joining your game. Because, as strange as it seems, it makes the game so much harder to play, and equally to enjoy. So much of poker is based on playing the heads of the other players, rather than the cards in your hand, that there being someone who’s willing to hold onto a bottom pair of 2s on a board covered in paint cards (royals), seems so improbable you can’t take it into account. It becomes a lottery, and you may as well play any two cards yourself. (See pic below)

Heavy all in with, er, nothing as usual.

You can’t use any tactics. You can’t raise the other players off a weak hand, or intimidate them. They check-raise constantly, and almost always with nothing. The majority of times I’ve been beaten it’s because they’ve hit a 2-outer on the river, rather than because they’ve out-played me. It’s just pot luck, random, bingo, a waste of time. Bluffing is, therefore, rarely possible.

Switch it up to Difficult and things, oddly, get a little easier. Their behaviour is less completely insane in this mode, there’s ever-so slightly more pattern to it. But they’ll still bet nonsense, and hold onto a pair of 3s with a flop full of Aces and Kings. Here you can occasionally shake them off their hands, but despite playing in this mode for most of the time I’ve still been enormously infuriated by how dumb it is.

Same again.

The betting is also borked. Say the blinds are at 100 and 200, regular pre-flop bets will be around the 3000 mark. Just completely bonkers over-bets as standard. Then perhaps on the turn, with a 4000 pot, to call it’s 600 and you raise it to 2400; another character will say raise but only put in 600 more. I’m quite certain this is completely against the rules of hold ‘em (I’m sure a re-raise has to be equal to or more than the previous raise, not the round’s big blind), alongside making absolutely no sense whatsoever. Frequently characters will chuck in an enormous raise, then fold at almost nothing after the next card. And there’s outlandishly stupid betting like putting in all but 200 of their chips, and then folding when re-raised for the final few. Or, as mentioned before, raising after the only other opponent is all in, proving the programming just has no clue what’s going on.

Further lack of an understanding of poker is shown in showdowns. If everyone involved is all in or called, so the cards are face up, it will continue to attempt to build suspense on the river, even after the turn card has ensured one player will definitely win. It makes the game seem so feeble, so ignorant of the game it’s trying to portray. I can’t imagine any other poker game that would be released without hand percentages displayed during showdowns, let alone one that doesn’t even understand 100% even if it’s hidden.

Yeah, it's slighty trickier now.

There’s bugs too. A lot. I’ve had the pleasure of the game only showing me one of my cards on two occasions (see above). It makes it a little more challenging to play when one of your cards is hidden from you. Max will frequently announce he’s “checking too” after no one else has checked. When conversations characters are having are interrupted by events, they’re supposed to say, “As I was saying…” and carry on. But more frequently the conversation vanishes, or they say that line then don’t carry on, or start madly repeating the same lines. Characters mock you for checking, immediately before or after checking themselves. Despite switching off the bleeping for swearing, randomly it will still get bleeped out. Right clicking to skip dialogue very often just makes them say the same line again. And frighteningly often it will just fail to display who’s on what blinds.

It gets even stupider. One of the decks you can unlock, the Homestar deck, is so idiotically designed that you literally can’t see what the card value is on the screen. It’s bewildering. Take a look:

This has not been cut off in any way.

Talking of unlocks, along with different tables and decks, you can also unlock one special item per player, won if they bet it at the start of a tournament, and you’re the one to knock them out. The rarity of their appearances is deliberate, as these are unlocks for TF2. Strong Bad’s Dangeresque, Too? glasses, Max’s gun and badge, Tycho’s Spy watch, and the Heavy’s enormous weapon, The Iron Curtain. (Although naturally, in-game, it’s referred to as “Sasha”, which would make it a pretty redundant unlock.)

Sigh – I just played another hand at this point. I fold after Max raises the blinds by his usual 12 times. It’s just Max and the Heavy left in. The Heavy was only a few chips over that so went all in, and Max responded by, er, going all in too. What? When Max won with AQd, Tycho told him off for playing “rubbish cards”. No.

I wasn’t expecting a high quality poker game. Mostly because there just hasn’t been one, ever. No one has released a poker game that can convincing bluff or be bluffed, and it’s understandably tricky to program that sort of AI. But this is absolutely woeful. It doesn’t seem to know the rules of hold ‘em, it certainly doesn’t know how to play hold ‘em, and it’s unfortunately not funny enough, or funny for nearly long enough, for it to be worth playing the crapshoot just to hear the gags. That lasts maybe two mini-tournaments, and then you’re done.

It’s incredibly cheap, around £3, and that does make a really enormous difference. And it’s animated really nicely, each character maintaining their unique style. But sadly, as funny as a lot of the lines definitely are, it doesn’t last, and it doesn’t have a workable poker game underneath it to make it worthwhile.

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285 Comments »

  1. DrugCrazed says:

    Now, I enjoyed Tycho and Heavy when they were bantering with each other.

    And I hate Max. Max ALWAYS rivers me.

    • Crysalim says:

      What a horrible review this was. For $5, the price of a good hamburger, you get some awesome voice acting and a good texas hold em game (the author is wrong, the mechanics are fine for most people)

      I mean… seriously. Five dollars. And he spent this much time trashing the game. Why this review actually got linked on steam is beyond me.

    • Stromko says:

      The characters do bet stupidly, he’s right on that. Personally I rather enjoyed it and have played about 30 tournaments so far, but I’m not a great poker player. I’ve only played about 10 nights of texas hold’em in my life before this game.

      At first I would lose about every other tournament, but I’ve gotten to the point where I walk away the winner 75% of the time. It has improved my game, but that’s because I was a relative rookie to begin with. I got better on fundamentals, but this won’t really challenge an experienced player.

    • oOLaharlOo says:

      Yeah the game is pretty buggy, I played quite a few hands that ended with someone having ACE high and my having a pair, and some freakin how the computer won it.

      Garbage.

    • Brady says:

      This review is crap.
      The game is great.
      Dialogue is funny.

      Their poker strategies are actually not bad.

  2. Andreas says:

    For £3, it’s a great soundboard :)

  3. Jonathan says:

    And yet £3 is cheaper than many items in the TF2 item store, making this perhaps a good deal? I FEEL GLOOMY NOW.

  4. Premium User Badge Rinox says:

    So basically it’s only an excuse for the TF2 items? :-(

    /tries not to go on a poker is overrated rant

    • Premium User Badge Schaulustiger says:

      Poker sure is a bit over-hyped nowadays, but from a pure mathematical standpoint, it is quite a fascinating game.

    • Premium User Badge Rinox says:

      Oh I agree, I just find that it is often overblown compared to other, equally fascinating games (the hype like you said) and dislike the whole seriousness following from it. For better or for worse, there is a serious luck factor there, which is often denied vehemently by some of its adherents (don’t take this as me saying that there’s not a lot more to it, but I get the creeps from people smugly going that it has nothing to do with luck).

    • brian says:

      You won’t find any professional poker player out there that doesn’t think it’s gambling either, in general it’s the terrible ones who read a book or two and think they’re awesome that spout the annoying as hell crap like “poker isn’t gambling if you’re good”, yes you have a mathematical edge which you can’t get in any casino game, but casinos are still gambling with their customers, they’re just doing it with an essentially infinite bankroll in comparison, which means in the long run they’ll profit.

    • Premium User Badge Schaulustiger says:

      @Rinox:

      I always used to say that knowing how to play poker means that you maximize your profits when you are lucky and minimize your losses when you aren’t. And if you know how to do that you are pretty much able to consistently win more money than you lose (in online real money poker, that is).

    • John Walker says:

      I think poker’s over-popularity has long since passed. That was three or four years ago. The WSOP’s Main Event is still very popular, but not as popular as it once was.

      And while of course there is luck involved – that’s what all the percentages are about – there’s a reason why some people consistently do better at it than others. The element of chance that’s involved is mathematics, and playing according to those maths takes skill.

      So yes, I may have a 95% chance of winning a hand on the river, and you may have only a 5%, and of course one in twenty times you will win. However, one applies skill before and during these times. In fact, the more you play, the more you realise the cards in your and others’ hands aren’t that relevant for much of the game – it’s about how you play them, the odds forming a part of that.

      That’s why people get annoyed when others say, “But it all comes down to luck, doesn’t it?” No, it absolutely does not. Luck’s a part of it, but often the statistics will go against you and despite making the mathematically correct play, you’ll still lose.

      I have a friend who plays an awful lot of poker, and has the worst luck of anyone I know in the game. He is constantly given the worst beats, and dealt the most incessantly awful cards, and he loudly complains about it. But he tends to cash in most games he plays, tends to be near the top of leaderboards, if not at the top.

    • Tyshalle says:

      There’s a reason there are thousands of professional poker players, making a comfortable living off of nothing but their winnings. There’s also a reason there are no professional craps players. Or professional roulette players, etc.

      It’s easy enough to say that it’s overhyped, but unlike sports or other games, poker is one of the only games out there where you can make a career purely out of your own abilities, with nobody else having to hire you or validate your expertise. There’s also the fact that you don’t have to be the best to make a lot of money playing it.

      I don’t really get why lots of people seem to think that poker is overhyped, but meanwhile they aren’t throwing these same insults at much more boring games (IMO) like football or basketball or whatever.

    • Premium User Badge Rinox says:

      I agree with all that – but I do think that at the higher (-est) levels, luck becomes (somewhat ironically)more of a deciding factor. Since there are only so many ways to read a poker play and often everyone at the table has a very good idea of what they are doing and what the others are doing, it’s less of a ‘who is the better player’ and more of a ‘what is in the moment’ type of game.

      @ Tyshalle: I merely think it’s overhyped compared to other games. And I wouldn’t compare poker to professional sports. In professional sports, you can consistently win (like, world champion win) if you are the best. In poker, your skill isn’t the only deciding factor on the outcome.

    • Tyshalle says:

      Also, to echo Walker a bit, a lot of the luck people seem to read into poker comes from tournaments, where the luck factor is huge. This is because people are forced into taking chances as the blinds double every hour (or online every 3-10 minutes). When you start out with $30,000 in chips in the Main Event with blinds at 50/100 (or whatever they are), this gives you plenty of time to feel your table out, figure out who the suckers are, and make some plays. But when those blinds have been enormously escalated to like 50,000/100,000 with 10,000 antes, and you’ve only got a stack of $2,000,000 chips, there’s a reason why people are shoving all-in pre-flop with junk like Ace Seven off-suit.

      If you want to see poker in its pure form, check out the cash games. This is where skill matters much, much more than luck. There’s still luck involved; it’s what keeps the suckers coming back, knowing that they can get lucky even if they make the bad choices. But long-term, the good players are gonna win out over the bad players.

    • Tyshalle says:

      @Rinox

      Not trying to come across as a psycho poker advocate here, but your logic sounds like it’s coming from somebody from the outside looking in.

      If you want to talk about the Main Event, which is basically the only super-hyped poker tournament around, then okay. I suppose saying that your skill isn’t the only deciding factor in whether or not you win is true. But that’s one tournament. And it’s a tournament, so the luck factor is much better.

      But most of the greats are cash game players. Phil Ivey, Patrick Antonious and Tom Dwan, probably the three best poker players in the world, are consistent winners in online and live cash games. Dwan for instance, regularly makes over a hundred thousand dollars in a single session cash game (given, he’s playing like 4+ tables online, but still). But he hasn’t cashed in the Main Event even once.

      So it’s really just about how you’re judging it, and it probably explains why so many people who have experience with poker go crazy on internet forums where people are talking about how it’s all about luck or whatever. If you want to judge all of poker based on a single tournament, then okay, I guess you’re “right.” But if you broaden your view up a bit (or a lot) you’d probably come to a completely different conclusion.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      There is as much luck as many other games people dont complain about.
      In soccer, you could walk into a depression in the ground, and trip. Luck of the pitch. A pigeon can fly in front of your pitch in baseball, luck of the pitch.

      In poker, everyone gets the same luck over time, yet some consitently win.
      Weird, right?

    • Jim9137 says:

      I completely agree with this review. Sometimes, sense is there, but a lot of the times, the fun of the game is diluted by the monotony of their tabletalk and complete random play. I can get more enjoyment out of a an online strip poker game (that is ‘poker’ in its loosest sense).

      … Unless I get busted out, and I can see the completely random AI at work without having to involve myself in second-guessing games.

      But more than the game, I’m honestly disappointed at the characterisation. I was expecting more verbal fireworks, more characteristic animation and needling one way or the other between the dysfunctional videogame heros. Tycho is so lacklustre it’s almost realistic, Sam’s antics are a joy to watch but I don’t get his humor, Strong Bad’s cool but lacks the spark, and the only character I really liked was Heavy. He was the only character whose personality really shined through (such as the stoic ‘I am bet.’, or ‘In.’). In retrospect, he must have been also easiest to write.

      I’m sad that the personality traits didn’t find their way into their playing styles. The styles seem to change from hand to hand, which is infuriating. Heavy could be loose-passive who tilts a lot, Tycho could be cool and collected tight aggressive calculating machine (or even a rock), whereas Sam should be a loose maniac and Strong Bad could make big, ego-inflating bluffs while other than that he bows down aggression with a sadface. Now it’s me who is making a sadface.

      Anyway, fun for the few bucks, but I would pay $17 more if the realized potential was there that is currently lacking. Severely.

      DISCLAIMER: Yes, I play poker. And no, random poker isn’t fun. Profitable, maybe, but fun, no.

    • Jim9137 says:

      And that completely went in the wrong reply box. Oh well!

    • Geography says:

      Uhhh… Brian wrote: “casinos are still gambling with their customers, they’re just doing it with an essentially infinite bankroll in comparison, which means in the long run they’ll profit.”
      No. This is not why casinos win. They don’t win because they can’t run out of money for betting (hint: they can, they’d go broke). They win because ALL casino games are weighted statistically in favour of the casino.

  5. Premium User Badge Schaulustiger says:

    Sad, but so very true. It is strange that both Telltale and Valve, which I hold in rather high regards, committed to such an awful, awful project. It’s buggy, there’s only a handful of dialogue (of which some lines are really funny, admittedly) and the underlying poker game is one of the worst I’ve every played. Seriously. It’s like a RNG determines whether your opponent folds, calls or raises with another RNG determining the bet size.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Actually, if they had a pure, working, random number generator, that would be MORE impressive than the idea or concept.

  6. Stuart Walton says:

    I have managed to scare them off pots but you really have to bet over the odds to do this. It’s as if they’re either going to go all the way (or near enough) or try and see cards for as cheap as possible (like a newbie). Getting value out of hand and then winning it is very tricky because the players don’t seem to react to their odds of winning dropping. I have been rivered so many times by hands that were way weaker before that final card than the betting would suggest. It is as if the odds weren’t being calculated at all.

  7. Mashakosha says:

    I am one of these newbies who has never played even a half-serious game of hold-em in my life. I find the game enjoyable enough and for £3 I suppose it’s worth it… still, probably wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not massively obsessed with TF2, Sam & Max, HSR or PA. Mostly TF2 though.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      I thought the same thing. The game is fine, if you’re not a huge dork about Poker. I mean fan. Still, though, John using the term “the river” means he knows more about it than the average TF2 player, since it’s never used in game as a term. At five bucks or so, were Poker fans really expecting the end all Poker game? I really think the game was intended for the rest of us with a passing interest. Also, leave the settings on default.

    • Thants says:

      I’m sure COD:BLOPS is an amazing game if you’ve never played an FPS before but I don’t think that’s the best way to review a game.

  8. Quasar says:

    I agree with this review, but I still recommend buying it. It’s cheap enough that you can play it for a few hours, get all the unlocks, hear all the dialogue and be satisfied.

    The main reason to play it is the atmosphere and the banter, in my opinion. The game is pretty much secondary. Once that wears off, I probably won’t play it any more, but I’ll certainly have got my money’s worth.

  9. Koozer says:

    I don’t quite understand. The other AI players being not very good makes it harder to win? If this was any other game, say, League of Legends or Battlefield, I would say that’s the poor excuse of a sore loser.

    • Premium User Badge Rinox says:

      I think what John meant was like, when you’re playing football (soccer) with people who aren’t regular players, they’ll often do unexpected moves or make strange decisions that will mess up your game because every game has a sort of ‘meta ruleset’ in which everyone kind of knows what to do and what not to do, even though it’s not an invalid or ‘bad’ tactic per se.

      I personally like to play with really serious poker players and then pull the strangest shit, they have no idea wtf you’re doing and have to make completely blind calls which scares them. It’s good fun.

    • John Walker says:

      I do carefully explain this in the piece. Anyone who plays poker will echo this – someone playing randomly, or extremely badly, makes it a very difficult game to play. Bad beats are bad beats.

    • Premium User Badge Schaulustiger says:

      Yeah, John described it pretty good in his WIT. Nothing spoils the fun in poker more than playing with people who just just play batshit insane. In our poker rounds, we scared those people off by having a 10€ buy-in :-P

    • Fergus says:

      That’s part of poker. Reading what the other players are doing and predicting why they’re doing it is half the game. Throw in an AI that does crazy things, and it makes it impossible to guess what move you should be making.

    • Tyshalle says:

      As someone who regularly plays (and wins) in online poker, I will say that playing in the 50 cent games (with stacks of $50) are much easier for a thinking, experienced player, than the 2 cent games are. In fact, I was a break-even player for close to two years before I moved up to 50NL and then my profits immediately began to soar.

      When people are willing to fold their hand, even when they have a flush draw or an open-ender, the game stops becoming purely about luck and the skill factor really takes over. Especially in cash games, where the escalating blinds don’t force you to take bigger and bigger risks.

    • Senethro says:

      I don’t pretend to know anything about poker but surely if playing irrationally makes rational play impossible, then rational play is just an illusion arising out of agreed conventions about how the game “should” be played?

    • John Walker says:

      It is a bit of a paradox.

    • Stuart Walton says:

      Throw in one crazy player and it makes it tough. It’s usually best to avoid going up against that player till heads-up. But if all opponents are playing randomly then it doesn’t matter how you play, you’re in a game of luck at this point and your only option is to play tight and only chase the really, really good hands. I prefer playing loose and then tightening up against a higher stacks.

      I can only do that to a point in this game, getting any value and keeping it is a bigger gamble than it should be. I flopped a full house, played it slow (for which I got an achievement) and then when I put the pressure on I just couldn’t get the opposition off the pot. I then got rivered by a king high straight. Max went all-in against my all-in by chasing a straight. Nobody with any poker experience does that. Thankfully I didn’t bust due to being chip-leader.

      I’m trying not to say the game cheats or predetermines opponent actions but when Max whips out his prescient toy of power it makes you wonder. I think the bunny cheats, I’ve not felt that way with the other characters. I’m just going to have to play tight and let some good hands go, I already avoid playing 3-handed and up. Just too many variables.

    • Grundlewart says:

      I still don’t see how a bizarre play is necessarily a negative thing. Wouldn’t making a weird or bad play to rattle the other players be a legitimate tactic? I like to make the occasional batshit move in chess to try and throw my opponent off; if I can perplex them to the point where they make a bad move, the better for me.

    • Tyshalle says:

      @Grundlewart

      The problem is that making that irrational, brainless move is likely not going to work and will cost you money. It’s 100% definitely true that bad players make the game tougher for good players, because at that point they are basically forced to just play their cards and the odds. The problem is, they can still figure your play-style out, and if they judge you to be completely batshit insane, they’re likely gonna just wait for top pair and bust you.

      Good players frequently do weird things to try and mix up their play, to try and confuse other good players as to what they’re trying to do. But a lot of poker is working out what kind of player your opponent is. Some players are hyper aggressive, constantly raising and re-raising. Some hyper-aggressive players are hyper-aggressive only with big hands, and others do it with crap hands. Some people are super loose and passive, meaning they’re willing to continue to call even if they don’t have anything, some players are tight and passive, meaning they’ll hit big hands but instead of raising they just check and call. Good poker players figure out what kind of player you are and they use that against you.

      So if you’re a good player and you’re known for only playing good hands, but playing them aggressively, and then suddenly you decide to re-raise pre-flop with a hand like 6-7 suited, you might get your opponent to fold a big hand pre-flop, like Ace Queen or something. But that’s because you mixed up your play during one hand, when 98% of the time you are playing with a brain.

      Bad players meanwhile will just do random shit, and you can’t ever really figure out what they’re doing. But bad players tend to show down a lot of hands, so you can work them out too. Frequently they’ll wind up showing down hands that they didn’t hit until the river (the last card to come out), letting good players know that they will call big bets without a hand, and are willing to draw to the river. Mathematically, if you’ve got an 87% chance of winning on the flop, it doesn’t matter if they’re gonna win 13% of the time by the river. You want to bet, and bet big, to make the math of their call so terrible that long term, you will always make money from them.

      There’s a lot of variance with bad players though. Because that 13% of winning is frequently more like a 30% chance of winning, and after a hundred hands, you’re likely gonna lose a few big ones to them, which is frustrating. But you’re still gonna win long-term. And the bad player is still gonna lose.

    • DrEvilbones says:

      Seems to me it’s the same with button-mashers in fighting games. They don’t know enough about the game to be bluffed by feigns and baited into comboes, and playing against them is frustrating, as no amount of planning or strategery will work. Sure, you can just pelt them with projectiles over and over, but it doesn’t make for a fun match.

    • MD says:

      Bad opponents are a good thing, if your aim is to win money in the long run. Against crazy-loose bad players though, the appropriate counter-strategy is pretty boring, so if you’re playing for fun rather than money they can be frustrating. Also, crazy opponents can increase the level of variance, so it’ll take you longer to hit the ‘long term’ and see your results converge on what they should be. But anyone who says ‘bad players are harder to play against’ is being misleading and/or self-deluding.

    • Nogo says:

      This happens a lot in Diplomacy. Most everyone who’s played secures their borders and begins negotiating, but someone who’s new will make moves at random despite any talk you’ve done, thoroughly ruining all the talks that happened for the last half hour.

      It’s really tough to play a game about negotiation (poker being mostly non-verbal and indirect) when someone doesn’t know what goals they should be striving for. It’s like trying to haggle a street vendor who doesn’t know what any of his wares are worth. You’re equally likely to get screwed as you are to score, so why bother really?

    • MD says:

      “It’s like trying to haggle a street vendor who doesn’t know what any of his wares are worth. You’re equally likely to get screwed as you are to score, so why bother really?”

      That’s the thing, though: dealing with that street vendor would be extremely profitable for you, because you know roughly what his goods are worth, so you know which ones are selling for a bargain price and which ones would be a rip-off. Make the most of the bargains, ignore the rip-offs, and bam, easy money.

      It’s the same with bad poker players: as long as you adjust your playstyle appropriately, the money will go your way in the long run. If you’re losing to bad opponents, then a) you’re doing something wrong, b) you’re going through a run of bad luck, or c) your opponents aren’t actually bad. If they’re bad then they’ll lose money in the long run (though the long run can be surprisingly long), and that money has to go somewhere. (Of course, it could all be going to the house in rake, but in that case the rake is too high or your edge is too small.)

    • DMcCool says:

      @MD

      You’re right. However, John’s point is, (and any serious poker player would agree with him -strickly on this) the nature of the game being played, the game itself, of poker played with those that can play is a totally different experience, full of nous and degrees of skill. The game of playing against idiots is strickly one of number-crunching, poker reduced to some of its fundamentals – any attempt to play “serious” poker in these circumstances, i.e. pretending you are playing against other people that fully grasp the situation they are in, will be really difficult. Yes you can still play the limited, defensive game of only betting on fuck-off fantastic hands, but that is a different and far duller game – poker would not be as popular as it is today if that was what it ultimately consisted of. This rather joyless version of poker on offer, mixed with the grating voice acting, apparently offers about half an hour of entertainment. Tbh if we weren’t in the age of Steam sales and GoG, £3 would probably sound a better deal for that.

    • MD says:

      @DMcCool: Yeah, I don’t disagree with that. As I said earlier:

      “Bad opponents are a good thing, if your aim is to win money in the long run. Against crazy-loose bad players though, the appropriate counter-strategy is pretty boring, so if you’re playing for fun rather than money they can be frustrating. ”

      But I don’t think that’s what John said. It might be what he meant, but when he says things like “someone playing randomly, or extremely badly, makes it a very difficult game to play” it’s hard not to read that as perpetuating the ‘bad players are hard to beat’ myth.

  10. Atic Atac says:

    Bought it for the TF2 items, hoping it would be a fun game as well. Found out how stupid the AI was and got all the items in 1-2 hours. The game is terrible…and I love Telltale and Valve.

    Tycho’s Giraffe story was good though.

    • Stromko says:

      A few dozen tournaments and I still haven’t heard that one. I’m not sick of the game yet, though, so it’ll probably come along eventually.

      Really I just right-click to skip past any dialogue I’ve already heard, which is most, so it comes back around to my turn rather quickly.

  11. Premium User Badge Craymen Edge says:

    I was very disappointed when the Telltale big reveal was a poker game, and not even a good one it seems. I think I’ll just wait for the funny bits show up on youtube.

  12. Bhazor says:

    “It’s just pot luck, random, bingo, a waste of time”

    So it’s just like poker then?

    • John Walker says:

      Your not liking, and very probably not understanding poker does not make it a waste of time. You’ve become confused.

    • Tyshalle says:

      No doubt. The people who claim it’s all about luck are always the people who play it like a crapshoot and then blame the site/house when they lose.

    • Wulf says:

      See this? This is a pin. It’s commonly used to deflate the egos of defensive people, who believe that they’re Gods at their given past-time, and get all jumpy and–as mentioned–defensive when their perceived dominance is challenged.

      It could be perfectly valid for him to consider Poker a waste of time, whilst understanding it. I mean, I have an innate understanding of how organised religion works, but I think that’s a waste of my time, and an ungodly mess, something that could probably be done better if a more logical and ethical mind was applied to it, along with some lateral thinking.

      Poker, organised religion, it’s all the same… it’s a position where people believe that because they’re in a certain camp, they believe that they’re better than other people. Some people believe that they’re better because they’re rich, because they’re religious, or because they’re good at poker. Often it’s simply a matter of overcompensating for something.

      How a person feels about poker is not a grounds to insult them and/or their intelligence, unless you’re a bit of an egotistical prat, really. And no, I don’t pull punches no matter who I’m talking to.

    • Thants says:

      He’s free to think it’s a wast of time, but saying that it’s just random luck indicated that he doesn’t know anything about it. I think talking trash about something you don’t know enough about is a perfectly fine reason to insult someone.

    • MD says:

      Wulf, I doubt that if I took a leisure activity you enjoy and made criticisms of it that you considered objectively false, before dismissing it as “a waste of time”, you’d consider that fair comment. There’s a gulf between what John and Tyshalle reacted to and what you defended.

    • MD says:

      Incidentally, Guild Wars is a soulless, grind-heavy WoW-clone with shit art. Random, compulsive clicking with none of WoW’s wit or charm: what a waste of time.

  13. MelvinFrohike says:

    The AI is indeed terrible. Having spent the last semester writing a poker AI myself, i know hard it is to make a good one. But it’s still saying a lot, when 2 guys can write a better one as a side project in three months than telltale can for a commercial product.

    Another issue is, that you can sometimes see the cards the opponents fold. That happens a lot with Tycho and sometimes with the Heavy when the game chooses a low camera perspective.

    Considering the low price it’s still allright. Made me laugh a couple of times. I like all the characters in the game.

    • Premium User Badge phlebas says:

      Out of interest, have you tried your AI against theirs?

    • MelvinFrohike says:

      Unfortunately the rule set of our AI is very different, it would be a lot of work to change our AI to make it able to compete against Inventory.
      Ours is for a fixed limit cash game as opposed to Inventory’s no-limit tournament.
      Fixed Limit is easier for an AI, but cash game is harder.
      In tournament play, as the blinds increase, preflop play becomes more and more important. Our AI is pretty good at preflop play, while Inventory is horrible.
      Post-flop, our AI and Inventory play very similar, overestimating the hand strength. Ours of course doesn’t do all these massive overbets considering it’s a fixed limit AI, but determining a bet size is a pretty easy thing to do.
      All in all, i am pretty sure that our AI would be a lot better than Inventory’s if modified for no-limit tournament play.

      I think, one reason why Inventory’s AI is so bad, is because Telltale wanted a smooth playing experience with little waiting time. Most of the time, the characters make their decision instantly, only sometime do they announce they have to think about it(If the game actually thinks about it is another question).

      For comparison, our AI tries to take approximately seven seconds for all actions in a hand, so it’s usually two to three seconds per action. This was a rule of the competition we entered, given more time, the AI plays better.

  14. Maxheadroom says:

    I normally agree with Wot I think but this was a little harsh.
    There’s a couple hours of genuine entertainment here and it costs less than a pint.

  15. pakoito says:

    Gobernor of Poker FTW.

    • Chris D says:

      I picked up Governor of Poker about a month ago. Unfortunately I discovered that I don’t actually like poker as much as I thought I did. On the other hand, while I’m no expert it does seem to be at least moderately sensible about how it plays and might not be a bad alternative for anyone looking for a poker game.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      I was just thinking, “You know, this may be a poor poker game, but it’s the best one I’ve played so far.” The others being Telltale Texas Hold ‘Em and Governor of Poker.

  16. kastanok says:

    As a complete novice when it comes to poker (as geeky as it is, Three Dragon Ante is my card game of choice) I at least now know how to play it thanks to this game, blinds and all. Mostly *cough*.

  17. icheyne says:

    I’m really surprised by this. Surely someone has done a decent AI implementation of poker? Has anyone else seen one?

    • Tyshalle says:

      I’ve heard of poker programs that were made in like, the 70′s or 80′s that were able to take on the professional players of the day and do okay (though they still lost). I don’t know how well they’d hold up these days though. Ever since the poker boom the game has become about a million times more difficult to win at, and I don’t think they’d be able to invent a program good enough to defend against it.

      I’ve never seen one implemented in a videogame though. Red Dead Redemption had the best one I’ve seen, I think, and that one sucked terribly.

      Honestly, the only way to get into a real poker game is to have real money on the line against real opponents. And in my experience it has to be enough money that the other player actually cares a little bit about not losing. I know that sounds douchey, but it is very true. Without real money on the line, there’s no real penalty to calling big bets just to see the turn or river card, to try and hit your 6-outer. And when that happens, the luck factor is much bigger, even though mathematically the good player will win out, the more you draw out the higher the variance is gonna be.

    • Anonymousity says:

      Some scientists created a complex ai for poker play that can beat professionals some of the time at holdem but even that was only 1v1
      http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2008/07/10/43658/battle-of-chips-computer-beats.html

    • MrEvilGuy says:

      scientists created it?! well no duh it’s gonna be good!

    • Anonymousity says:

      That wasn’t the point I was making, the point I was making was that it can beat professionals some of the time in 1v1 the simplest form of texas holdem and it’s using a lot of computer power and learns from players as they play, also it’s an expensive university funded project.

  18. Fergus says:

    If you’re looking for a genuine poker simulator … then it’s not going to be fun for you.

    I agree with the repetition of lines getting tiresome, though. Hard to see what they could have done to make this better without jacking up the price, though.

  19. Incrediblebulk92 says:

    Now I was thinking that I was terrible at poker (I still may be) but I haven’t managed to win a single game yet. it must be me assuming the other players are making rational decisions or had their own personalities.

    I got close once when 3 other players bet 70% of what they had when the highest any of them had was a 9. I felt slightly silly holding a flush. Guess I’ll just finish with this once I have the tf2 items. really wanted a good poker game too…

  20. Dominic White says:

    Really, this review is astoundingly harsh. Yes, the AI isn’t great, but it also is completely in-character. Max admits to barely even looking at the cards and betting based on what parts of him itch. Strong Bad is wildly overconfident all the time. The Heavy is very simple, folding when he thinks there’s no hope, and never backing down once he’s decided to bet high, and if he’s bluffing he’ll keep it going in an attempt to try and make you fold. The only halfway smart one at the table is Tycho, who actually plays half-decently (especially at the higher difficulty levels), even if he isn’t that great.

    The four personalities actually do have very distinct play-styles.

    I don’t think anyone expected it to be a serious poker sim. It’s a super-casual (aimed at beginners, for the most part), ultra-budget-priced (seriously, £3.. I reiterate: £3) excuse to waste 15-20 minutes at a time with a bunch of funny characters. It’s an alternative to Solitaire or Minesweeper, not a serious poker match.

    • Wolfox says:

      My thoughts exactly. I’m having a lot of fun with the game, and for $5, I’m entirely satisfied.

    • Dys says:

      Can’t help thinkin it’s a pretty good approximation of a poker game against those four characters.

      Any poker game with Max at the table is going to be random as hell.

    • Dominic White says:

      Yeah – this is what I’m getting at. The AI isn’t great, but each characters personality and playstyle is very well represented. Tycho is the only smart/capable player there, really, but he’s cautious and easily spooked into folding. The Heavy is dumb and easily read, but hard to shake. Strong Bad isn’t a total moron, but he’s full of hot air. Max is what would happen if you played the game by randomly mashing your face against the keyboard, although he CAN be scared into folding by a really shockingly high bet. Sometimes.

      And that’s exactly how Max would play Poker.

      It’s a poor representation of serious competitive poker, but I don’t think it ever tried to be that. What it is (and what it manages to do excellently) is portray a game of poker between four cartoon/videogame/comic characters.

    • Newe6000 says:

      Agreed, the author was extremely bias in this review. many people who baught this might not have even played poker before. One of them was me and on that part I had alot of fun and I LOLed alot.

      Also you try recording thousands of ways to say “fold, in, check, call, bet”. you dont want to? thats what I thought.

      God, this is not as bad a game as you say it is, but yet you still crap all over it in a bias review.

  21. yutt says:

    I bought the game having no idea how to play Texas Hold ‘Em (I’m guessing this is featured in the game). It has been a lot of fun.

    Maybe this $5, jokey poker game wasn’t designed for cynical, overly serious poker players?

    I think someone like me who has no idea how to play poker, wants to hear some interesting dialog between characters who would never interact outside of this scenario, and are willing to suspend disbelief a little, can really enjoy it.

    There is no excusing some of the more blatant bugs or poor design decisions. But you seem to be judging the game based on something no one in their right mind could expect it to be – even you admit this. It isn’t ‘Poker Simulator at the Inventory’.

    • Dominic White says:

      Seriously. This is barely even a review – it’s a rant by someone who takes their poker VERY SERIOUSLY, and seems aghast that a £3 comedy super-beginner level poker game with videogame/cartoon/comic characters isn’t a gritty and realistic simulation.

    • John Walker says:

      I don’t take poker that seriously, as it happens. But if something is for beginners, then it surely must be able to play the game? This absolutely cannot. Bad poker game, plus half an hour’s funny lines. Like I say, £3 makes a big difference. But it’s still a badly made, buggy game, and woeful at poker.

    • Senethro says:

      No, I think you’re taking it a lot more seriously than its intended to be. Surely a big clue is that this is a single player poker game. I’m hearing a lot of the same arguements that I hear at Civilization forums between players who want the AI to play to win and others who just want to build Pyramids and see Lincoln act like Lincoln.

      I thought this was a decent £3 game that taught me the basic rules, rituals and some of the horribly impenetrable lingo for playing poker and in 4 hours saw no bugs or crashes and was still getting new dialogue at the end. Your mileage may vary indeed.

    • Dominic White says:

      You don’t take Poker too seriously at all! You just wrote a rambling, angry 1500+ word review of a £3, comedy casual poker game…

      Yeaaaah.

    • Senethro says:

      Come on Dom, don’t make this look like one of those horrible comments threads from other sites that get linked here. One of the advantages of the WIT format is that we get opinionated opinions that are knowingly subjective.

      But it might be nice if John were to acknowlege his particular bias here!

    • John Walker says:

      I confess. I’m biased in favour of good games. I’m sorry.

      (Really, what are you talking about?)

    • thesundaybest says:

      John isn’t saying NO ONE should like this game. He’s saying, rather clearly, that people who play poker will probably find it crap. And I think he’s not far off from thinking that people who play poker AND who read this site might have thought to give this game a go – and would be disappointed by it.

      If it’s $5 for the novelty of seeing these characters interact, I think that’s actually too expensive. If that’s all we want why not just film a cartoon?

    • Tyshalle says:

      I don’t think he needs the help, but I must confess that I am a reasonably experienced poker player who was steered away from this game due to this review. And I’m happy about that.

    • DrugCrazed says:

      @yutt

      I’m a semi serious poker player and I prefer playing with people who vaguely know what they’re doing. The AI makes some immensely dumb calls that anyone with half a mind wouldn’t do.

      I still enjoyed it. As soon as Max is busted out. That bastard always rivers me and his voice grates. A lot.

    • Thants says:

      @Dominic White – This is a video-game site. He’s a video-game reviewer. It’s his job to write reviews of games.

      Is it just me or is there a strong current of anti-intellectualism in this thread? As if it were a bad thing that the reviewer knows something about the subject matter of the game. Do people also want FPS reviews that are essentially “This game is amazing! You actually get to see through the eyes of a soldier and control him, as if you were in a war!”.

    • MrEvilGuy says:

      If a beginner to poker is reading this review, something should click in their head when they realize that Walker is an experienced player… I don’t think he should be required to openly admit something like, “I am an experience poker player which means my perspective on this game may be very different than the perspective of a beginner, so when you’re reading about the different aspects of this game throughout my review, take that into consideration if you seriously consider buying this game.”

      That should be implied when using any critical thought process to think of how reviews and opinions work.

      And his criticism of the game seems undisputed – those of you who criticize him for taking the review/game too seriously are simply criticizing his personal opinion, and like I said, he shouldn’t have to hold your hand and explain to you that he’s not God and does not have some objective stance to make a satisfying review for everyone. And I don’t think that’s what he was intending to do, and I don’t think that’s what reviewers should try to do.

    • Hexcelle says:

      Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll patch it quickly to work out some of the kinks.

      I am not a poker player, and I also got frustrated with the AI’s stupid bets. And its ability to make me lose when even *I* knew I had the winning hand. The repetitive dioaloge is also tedious, but the cost to add more is likely too prohibitive to get upgraded.

  22. brulleks says:

    Sounds like they should have just made a short film of these characters playing poker and pasted it up on Youtube. Which, incidentally, is where I will now be going to see the funny bits of this game, rather than actually buying it.

  23. NecktieGrins says:

    I liked it.

  24. yutt says:

    After reading through John’s comments in this thread he is obviously *far* too obsessed with the intricacies of poker to give a fair review of this game. If you are like him, don’t buy it.

    If you like any combination of Homestar Runner, Penny Arcade, TF2, and/or Sam and Max, and aren’t too into poker but willing to try having fun – there is plenty of fun to be had.

    • John Walker says:

      Let’s just get this straight.

      I know how to play poker. That seems a reasonably sensible qualification for someone reviewing a poker game. If this were a backgammon game – a game I have no idea how to play – I think people would be rightly miffed if I were to review it, and therefore have no idea if the AI was any good, was a worthwhile opponent.

      I’m also a really enormous fan of Strong Bad, and get a lot of enjoyment from Valve’s characters, and the most recent series of Sam & Max. These are characters I like. There’s about half an hour’s fun to be had from that, like I say.

      But really, to suggest that someone understanding the subject matter means they can’t give a “fair review” is outrageous.

    • yutt says:

      @John Walker

      I suppose we must simply have irreconcilably different perspectives. I have enormous respect for you as a writer, reviewer, and cultural gatekeeper. In this situation I don’t think your opinion happens to parallel my experiences.

      Mind you, I am not saying your opinion should mirror mine, or is incorrect in any way. I appreciate that you give strong reviews based on your own experience rather than trying to cater to a muddled middle like most “reviews”. That is what makes RPS invaluable.

      In summary: Keep being way too serious about poker.

    • John Walker says:

      Heh, will do : )

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Actually, that’s the thing. I’m fairly sure the game was targeted at people that can’t, and don’t, play Poker. Knowing what you’re doing means you’re not the target audience, and it’s probably a safer bet to target those that can’t play Poker for a five dollar game than those who can.

    • Dys says:

      I agree with the above. The game is for people who have no clue how poker works, though even at the end of a hand I’m sometimes unsure why the ‘winner’ won.

      Thinking about it, I don’t know how the thing could really be reviewed. You say you expect a poker game to ‘know how to play poker’, but if you sat down at a poker table with four random strangers, would you really expect them to know how to play poker? All you can really ask from the ai is consistency. I can’t really say if it manages that or not, but it’s worth bearing in mind that consistently random is still consistent.

      The technical issues are a separate matter, of course. Shame it bugs, seems like qc was a little lax on this £3 game :P

    • Stromko says:

      Well, that could be why it’s a Wot I Think instead of a review.

  25. clownst0pper says:

    Great review.

    Maybe the AI is roleplaying being dumb?:)

  26. Ian says:

    I think I’d like to learn how poker works only that I don’t know anybody who plays, and learning how to play just to play online sounds like a surefire way for me to lose a lot of my money.

    • Tyshalle says:

      Deposit $50 onto Full Tilt or PokerStars, sit at the 2 cent tables where you can buy in for $2 each, or try the tournaments which can be played for as little as a dollar or less, and you’ll get many hours worth of gameplay for your money. More than you would for your average $50 modern PC game, to be honest.

      Except unlike other games, if you manage to get good at it you might make your investment back, and then some.

    • Oddtwang of Dork says:

      You can, in fact, play indefinitely on those services (certainly PokerStars) for no money whatsoever on their “play money” tables. That’s not a bad way to learn the rules of the game (and Hold ‘Em is pretty simple really – things like Omaha have a much steeper learning curve). It *is* probably a bad way to learn how to play for actual money, since you generally run into people playing, well, like the AI in this game does – huge raises pre-flop with nothing, and so on. You can win their pretend chips off them, but that probably doesn’t help all that much when you move up to games for actual money. As mentioned above, though, the cash games online cover a huge variety of prices – you can get a lot of entertainment out of a pretty tiny bankroll there.

      I bowed and bought the game last night, and was irritated by a few of the things John mentions during the one game I played – rather wish I’d waited until after reading this now.

  27. The_B says:

    Out of interest John, do you have any preferred Poker sites or clients for some good games of Poker? As someone who plays and enjoys it myself I often feel a little sad that it’s rare to see any sort of round up or otherwise of various poker clients, even if the reasoning behind not featuring them on a site like this is understandable.

    • The_B says:

      As for my thoughts on Inventory, they’re largely the same as yours John. It’s got to the point now where I’ll almost regularly go all in on every hand as I have about the same chance of winning either way. I went all in on a pair of Aces and was called by Strong Bad with a 2d7c pre-flop. Strong Bad won with two pair getting one on the flop and the second on the river, respectively.

    • John Walker says:

      The best I’ve found, and largely because of its simplicity (there’s no attempt to have bloody people fiddling with chips – just a name in a circle) is http://www.poker.co.uk/.

      It still has lots of flaws, not least the ghastly messages telling you about games that are starting soon, but it’s the cleanest I’ve encountered.

    • Tyshalle says:

      @The_B

      If you’re talking about real poker sites, where you can win and lose real money at, the two biggest ones are Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. Both are completely legitimate, will never go out of business, and will never screw you over. In fact, if you’re unlucky enough to live in the United States, where our poker laws are ambiguous and pretty douchey, a few years ago a New York judge or someone trying to make a political move to get re-elected confiscated a whole bunch of poker winnings from players who cashed in via Full Tilt. We’re talking about millions of dollars here. Full Tilt took it as a loss and found another way to get the players their money.

      PokerStars is the bigger site, but I don’t like their software as much. It’s clunkier, a bit less easy on the eyes, and worst of all, it’s much slower, which if you get good at poker becomes a real issue. Full Tilt is still an enormous website with like 25,000 players playing online at any given moment, and their site is much cleaner, much faster, and much more reliable. That said, they opted for the cartoon graphics, which is okay if you don’t mind it, but grinds on a lot of people’s nerves. That said, there are skins you can get to fix the tables. And really the most important thing, IMO, is the fact that in a given hour at a 9-handed table, you can get about 80 hands in on Full Tilt, while at PokerStars it’s more like 55 or so. This might not sound like a lot, but when you consider that poker players measure their success in terms of Big Blinds won per 100 hands (the average for a winning player being about 4BB), the more hands you get in per hour, the higher your hourly rate is.

      Hope that helps, assuming you were talking about real poker sites, rather than just videogames. If not, sorry for wasting your time!

    • Will Tomas says:

      I’m a massive fan of Poker Academy. http://www.poker-academy.com It has adaptive AI and they regularly behave the sort of way you would want them to, playing the odds but occasionally bluffing.

    • The_B says:

      Cheers guys.

      I quite like PKR myself, although occasionally it can be a bit long winded with all the animations.

  28. Monchberter says:

    It doesn’t run on a netbook.

    Finding out that a such a simple sub £5 game doesn’t is frankly a bit insulting.

  29. Oak says:

    So what is the Inventory, anyway?

  30. Uhm says:

    Well. At least they know people will buy anything with these characters attached now.

  31. Giant, fussy whingebag says:

    Cheap crossover game in tacky throwaway shocker!

  32. Olivaw says:

    So if I don’t really give a shit about poker, and never will, is this game alright?

    • seras says:

      so …I don’t like jumping, should i try this Super Mario game?

  33. K says:

    Annoyingly the best strategy is very, very simple:

    1. Fold everything that is not good.
    2. If your cards are good, try to see the flop for cheap.
    3. If you hit something, raise a third of your stack, three times.

    Either they will fold (that is rare) and you win money.
    Or they won’t, and have 95% chance of losing (their pair of 5s versus your pair of kings). In that case, you make a ton of money most of the time, and sometimes they get lucky.

    Annoyingly, it does not make for dramatic moments at all.

  34. thesundaybest says:

    I think what some people are missing is that, regardless of what you feel about the mechanics of poker or the hyped nature of the game or luck as a concept, the game isn’t any fun. And John carefully explained why it isn’t fun, and what you might expect of a poker game that IS fun. Because it’s a game review, not a celebration/defence of poker.

    And I’m glad I read this before buying it, which I almost did for the low price and novelty. It sounds dreadful.

    • yutt says:

      I think what you are missing is that the game is fun, for some people. John carefully explaining how something that I enjoyed isn’t fun is nonsensical. Obviously opinions on this game can vary wildly. Read the comments. Many of us have had hours of enjoyment from the game.

  35. Rick says:

    I’m with Dominic White and yutt on this, that’s one hell of a far-too-harsh review. But then I never understand why John is usually the one who reviews TTG’s stuff, both here and in print magazines, the way they’re always written makes it seem as though he never likes anything they do. Almost as if TTG had knocked him over on the street and never apologised.

    • thesundaybest says:

      So let me get this straight – John’s review is biased because he didn’t anticipate what people with experiences very different from his own would experience. If this was an RPG, if I’m getting this right, and John said the RPG mechanics were terrible, than he’d be biased against people who never play RPGs?

      It’s a casual game, sure, but that doesn’t mean it can ignore the mechanics and underpinnings of the game it’s supposedly emulating, otherwise what is the point?

    • Rick says:

      No, I’m saying that John rarely seems to acknowledge anything good about TTG, when others and even colleages do. I’m saying that perhaps reviews for these sort of games should go to someone who actually gets enjoyment from the genres TTGs dabbles with generally, because reading John’s reviews of TTG’s stuff since 2006 it seems that he doesn’t.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      As he said in the review, he likes the Strong Bad games. He likes The last series of Sam’n'Max. He said as much in the piece.

      KG

    • John Walker says:

      From before the site collapsed earlier:

      My reviews of Telltale’s games have been pretty much in line with everyone else who has covered them for PC Gamer. Alec and Richard Cobbett have both reviewed their games along with me for PCG, and given similar marks. Low 50s to high 70s.

      I thought the new series of Sam & Max was a massive improvement and often extremely good, and gave rave reviews to a number of the Strong Bad games, covering them a great deal here, including interviewing The Bros. Chap and the MD of Telltale, in a spoof spat between the two parties.

      I have been critical of their poor games, because they were poor games. (I was one of very few who did not simply re-review Hit The Road over and over and over, while ignoring the game they were playing.)

      Sorry to spoil your conspiracy with some pesky old facts.

    • Taillefer says:

      Standards, innit.

    • Rick says:

      I wasn’t trying to put forward a conspiracy, I’m simply conveying the impression I got from your reviews at that time. Consider me standing corrected.

  36. pWEN says:

    You forgot to mention how horribly this game lags. I can run TF2 at max settings without so much as a hiccup, yet this thing lags so much it practically oozes along.

    • Kdansky says:

      And it’s worse on a Mac. My Macbook Pro (with a Core2 and 2 GB or RAM, which isn’t high end, but certainly enough to run a game with as little action as PNATI) cannot run it above low settings, it’s still horribly sluggish and I cannot change the resolution at all without it crashing completely.

      It feels more like a proof of concept than a real game.

  37. Basilicus says:

    Poker’s fun, but it’s no Gin Rummy or Bridge.

  38. Bungle says:

    Excellent review. The game is pure shit and it infuriates me that I can be forced to play it to get my items. I feel like a dog being made to jump through hoops.

    Valve, all the goodwill you’ve earned from me over the years is gone now. We’re back at square one after you made me do this. I’m upset.

    • LionsPhil says:

      “Made you”. There is a problem with this claim.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      No, see, one of Gabe’s clones showed up on his doorstep with a shotgun and forced him to play the game. I gotta say, as soon as I read that post, my need for vitriolic responses went through the roof.

      Seriously, dude. Did Gabe run over your dog, or what? This is a ridiculous response for attention, and if you need to resort to trolling (or even worse, this is how you talk) then I think you need to reevauluate your life, and go outside more. Even if you work outside, you need to go outside more. In fact, don’t reply. Just go outside. Thank you for your cooperation.

    • Bungle says:

      Don’t take two of my words out of context, asshat. I said, “made me play IN ORDER TO GET THE ITEMS.”

    • TCM says:

      Because purely cosmetic items are the HEART AND SOUL of TF2, and how DARE Valve attach some PURELY COSMETIC AND UNNECESSARY ITEMS to a SILLY GAME. They FORCED me into purchasing it just to get their UTTERLY NON GAME AFFECTING items. How dare they. Screw their insane sales, quality games, and generally good attitude towards the mod community, FIVE TF2 ITEMS BLEW ALL MY GOODWILL ARGY BARGY.

    • Kdansky says:

      You should be upset at yourself that you fell for the marketing ploy of pointless TF2 items and spent real money on them. It’s your own fault.

  39. Premium User Badge Shakermaker says:

    I pre-ordered this game for 3 euro 50 which is a steal for five or six TF2 items if you ask me. Don’t really care about poker much, but the convo’s made me laugh. Until -like John noted- they started repeating themselves.

  40. LionsPhil says:

    Seeing Heavy look so bland shows off how much clever Valve apply with lighting in the TF2 engine.

    I’ve been hearing people report that this thing can’t even identify and rank hands appropriately, too. Still, Telltale are laughing their way to the bank thanks to more TF2 dress-up accessories.

    • Kdansky says:

      Apparently, a Queen-high Flush is better than a King-high Flush it just told me.

  41. Delusibeta says:

    I’ve got a few complaints (such as why they stuck on a three minute cut-scene that is loaded with the main menu and will inevitably be skipped after the first couple of times you’ve seen it, making the initial load even more annoying, plus the fact that it has about the same amount of lines as Telltale Texas Hold ‘Em, which considering that was they’re first game, is a bit disappointing), but, all things considered, I’d say it’s better than Telltale Texas Hold ‘Em, mainly due to the price.

  42. slayniac says:

    You might wanna check out PKR (pkr.com). Although it also has those constantly repeating lines, it’s certainly the most realistic virtual poker experience. For example, you see the other characters looking at their cards since players have to do that manually rather than seeing them all the time. Along with several taunts and behaviors, this adds some interesting psychological depth to the game. It’s free to play and has some fairly good graphics for a poker game. And guess what? It has online multiplayer! \o/

  43. yutt says:

    Sorry to link to an external review, but I happen to also be a fan of Ars Technica, and think they gave a great example of the contrary perspectives this game generates.

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2010/11/all-my-friends-are-cartoons-poker-night-at-the-inventory-is-great.ars

  44. Wilson says:

    I started watching a trailer for this a while back and just stopped watching when I heard Tycho speak. I don’t know why, but it was just so different to how I imagine him speaking that I couldn’t stand listening further, let alone buying the game.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yeah, I haven’t read anyone complaining about his voice so far. But I agree, that’s not how he should sound. It’s the reason I can’t enjoy the new Monkey Island remakes, that IS NOT Guybrush thankyouverymuch.

    • Premium User Badge Sinomatic says:

      Strange, because that is VERY MUCH Guybrush to me. The one voice in the remakes that actually threw me was Stan’s. I expected him to sound much more like some texan used car salesman for some reason…

    • Urthman says:

      Heh. I was a regular listener to the Penny Arcade podcast and I just assumed they would get Jerry Holkins to do the voice for Tycho. The voice actor for Tycho sounds nothing at all like Jerry. I was very disappointed.

      (…yeah yeah Jerry =/= Tycho blah blah they look so much alike blah blah…)

  45. Mut says:

    Yeah, that was a pretty harsh review. I’ve put about 8 hours in so far, and while the limited dialogue gets old pretty quick, the game’s still an entertaining little diversion. Well worth the price, if you ask me.

  46. Chris D says:

    Poker night at the Inventory: John’s New Vegas?

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      Nah. For a start, I can see why someone would think New Vegas is good.

  47. jonfitt says:

    Hi John,

    I pre-ordered this because:
    A) It was cheap
    B) I fancied getting the TF2 items.
    C) I’ve always wanted to learn to play poker properly.

    I’m guessing that this game will not help with C!

    But my question is, if I can’t really play well and the game plays nonsensically, do I stand a chance of achieving B?

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      Yes, but it’s a bit random at times. To get the items you have to play very conservatively and just try to see as many flops as possible.

    • Xocrates says:

      I doubt there would be a significantly difference in rate of item aquisition even if they played well, since you need to be the person to bankrupt the owner of the item regardless of who wins the tournament.

    • jonfitt says:

      So I need to win the hand in which they go bankrupt having divvied up their special item at the beginning of the tournament?
      I’m guessing that it’s randomly decided at the start of a tournament if the item is on offer?
      Can you just keep quitting tournaments until you get one where something is on offer?
      Also, can you quit a tournament after you bankrupt them?

      I’m just trying to reduce the amount of grind I will have to do to achieve my goal so that the dialogue doesn’t get too old.

    • Xocrates says:

      I believe all of that is correct. In theory the only downside is that you’ll end up with a huge debt in the (useless) stat page.

    • John Walker says:

      Yes – the game plays so badly, randomly all-inning should probably get you the items pretty quickly, so long as a tourny begins with their offering one. Which is random. If you turn the banter to the lowest (which would be a shame, to miss them the first time), and plough through, I don’t imagine it would take too long. And the game contains instructions for the hands – click the ? when it’s your turn to play.

    • Premium User Badge Hideous says:

      Here’s the thing – the other players in the game will not bet their items *unless* they are out of money to bet. Remove all the money they’ve won in previous games, and you might get their item.

  48. Xocrates says:

    You know all this discussion is reminding me a lot of Magic The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers: A game that’s terrible for anyone who plays the real thing but a fun (and cheap) time waster for the more casual player who can overlook some issues.

    I don’t know for sure if that means those are bad games or not, but it does mean they’re bound to be love it or hate it affairs.

    Just make sure to find out which side of the divide you are before you invest on them.

  49. DeepSleeper says:

    Hmmm. Between this and the Myst post, looks like it’s time to start completely disregarding John Walker.

    What a shame. Now Jim is carrying the entire site on his shoulders. Don’t let us down, Jim!

    • skurmedel says:

      I really wonder why people seem to think there is something objective in subjective writing. A review is inherently subjective. But I still wonder why people think this. I see it over at Eurogamer all the time. If the review constructively tells you why the author thinks the product is bad, it has done it’s job. You don’t have to agree with a review.

      I’ve read many reviews of stuff that concluded they didn’t like the product, but I derived from their text that I would enjoy it and got it. Those were good reviews, even though I didn’t agree with the conclusion.

      Of course there is other things you can debate about, whether a low-price tag should mean a less harsh review, facts in the article is wrong, author has missed important details etc. You can even debate the conclusion, but in the end, it’s somebody’s opinion, not Encyclopaedia Britannica.