Wot I Think: Poker Night At The Inventory

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.


  1. Mark says:

    I agree with John in that the “playing poker” part of the game is poor. It truly is, even on the hardest of difficulty levels. I played two or three games in a row and won almost solely because I played the cards and not the players. You can’t play the players in this game; they do not play rationally. Clearly the people criticising John for taking poker too seriously don’t actually understand what the game’s about, and therefore would be unable to tell the difference between a good or bad poker game.

    With all that born in mind, though, I do think it’s worthwhile for the price, which seems counter-intuitive when this is clearly a bad game. However, did I get three pounds’ worth of enjoyment from it? I can confidently say that I did. It made me laugh a couple of times, looks really nice and actually does a very good job in establishing rapport between the characters and player. It’s just a shame the AI is so braindead.

  2. Dervish says:

    Cracking up at the comments here. This is a model video game review, and I wish more were like it. Walker brings all his knowledge and experience to bear in analyzing the game, explaining to the best of his ability exactly where and why he thinks it fails, both on the poker and comedy fronts.

    All anyone can respond with is, “Well I thought it was fun! It has characters that I like! Plus, it’s cheap, so that magically makes the game better.”

    I hope you all realize that you are in the same company as those who will buy an iCarly or Harry Potter game based solely on the box art. Also lol’ing at people telling him his opinion is too harsh because he isn’t sensitive enough to other people’s opinions.

    • Xocrates says:

      Provided the people who got the game enjoyed it, why does it matter?

      I’ve enjoyed blatanty poor or otherwise weak games in the past that I got for no other reason than they were cheap, and I’m not ashamed about it.

      Heck, RPS itself has posted enthusiastically about buggy cheap games with zero AI in the past (see: Zombie shooter)

    • Dervish says:

      It matters when they turn around and try to criticize him or his review. Of course bad games (or movies, music, etc.) can be fun for a while, if you’re in the mood. But no one needs to be told that, so trying “balance” this review with those kinds of comments just looks whiny.

      Everyone should be able to read Walker’s write-up, estimate how much they’re willing to spend on some amusing voice acting, and go from there. But let’s call a spade a spade and make reviews as critical, informative, and useful as possible, not pander to the readers with “If you like stuff like this, you’ll probably like this!” kinds of statements.

    • DeepSleeper says:

      You’re right, of course. We should put player enjoyment in a vacuum, except when the reviewer fails to enjoy a game, in which case it’s incredibly important.

    • Xocrates says:

      To clarify: I never said I agree with the backlash John is receiving, because I don’t, even though I find the review a bit over-agressive it’s a perfectly valid one.

      My only point was that there isn’t really a problem with enjoying bad games.

      And for that matter I don’t see what’s the problem of pointing out that a bad game can be fun. Assuming it’s a fairly objective review it can be fairly difficult (if not impossible) to understand exactly how fun a game is. In the same way that there are plenty of games with near perfect scores that many people did not enjoy, saying something is subpar doesn’t immediately mean it’s not fun, but you would never know that unless someone else pointed it out.

      Hell, I had more fun playing the decisively mediocre Frontlines: Fuel of War than COD4, yet there’s little to nothing in the game that could be described as strictly better than COD. (both were bought heavily discounted, so I’m not taking price in consideration)

    • LionsPhil says:

      Nail-on-the-head, Mr Dervish. You have hit it.

    • Dervish says:

      It’s the reasons, man. The reasons are what are valuable and useful to the reader, not whether the thumb is pointing up or down. lern2criticize.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Your realise it’s not a bad game because he says so? It’s subjective, just because he’s a reviewer doesn’t make his view the correct one. Sorry, I always get a bit irritated when people say they enjoyed a ‘shit’ game. What they mean is they enjoyed a game that got bad reviews, or people hated etc. Well if you liked it, it’s not shit. Your opinion is just as valid as theirs!

    • John Walker says:

      We’re clearly being too subtle when we title the articles “Wot I Think”.

    • Xocrates says:

      @DrGonzo: Why are “being bad” and “being fun” incompatible? I noted that I liked games I personally considered poor.

  3. Zwebbie says:

    Should John really take the price of the game into account? A lot of people here excuse the game by saying that it’s cheap; but I always thought a reviewer reviewed the game, not its price. The reader can decide on that himself. People’s tastes differ, but what people think is value for money differs much more, and I therefore don’t think it should be taken into account in a review.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Well doesn’t it depend one whether he is reviewing just the game, or whether he is reviewing the product. Personally I think the price is important.

    • John Walker says:

      One large aspect of a straight review is to act as a buyer’s guide. I would be far more willing to recommend you spend £10 on an average game than I would if it cost £40. It doesn’t make the game itself any better, but it lowers the threshold for whether it’s worth a try.

      However, as we so subtly indicate, these are not straight reviews, but articles about wot WE think. We have embraced the subjectivity of reviews, and title them as such. Magazines and websites that fall over themselves to provide the impossible “objective” review are wasting everyone’s time, and mostly extremely dishonest.

      I believe that my 12 years of experience as a games critic, and 30 years of playing games, and ability as a writer/communicator, means I’m in a position to put forward an opinion piece that is of value to others to read. I believe in this article I have highlighted the strengths (funny dialogue, excellent animation) and weaknesses (it’s a truly dreadful poker game) with explanation and justification. I have then given my reaction to it, which was a mostly unfavourable one, despite the low price (which, in this case, I paid myself.)

    • Zwebbie says:

      John: Thanks for the reply. I think it’s a fine piece of WIT; in fact, I enjoy all of these WITs more than regular reviews.

      But your 30 years of experience can’t have given you any insight into my wallet. Maybe I’m a poor African child for whom £3 is a year’s earnings. Maybe I’m a billionaire who earns £3 by picking up a pen.

      All you can tell are the game’s strengths and weaknesses – let’s sum them up as ‘shoddy’ for now (because that sounds British to me). Whether a shoddy game is worth £3 differs a lot per person. Some people in this thread seem to think that shoddiness is fine at that price, others don’t. I don’t think any buyer’s guide should tell me whether something is worth buying or not; it can only tell how much value you get and how much money you have to pay, whether that means I’ll get my money’s worth is something only I can derive from that, not the reviewer.

    • John Walker says:

      I think you’re right. A game’s properties are good, bad or average independently of the price. But then I think it’s also important to say, “But it’s also awfully cheap,” because as you note, people’s thresholds are different with different prices.

      The big issue arises with the score. If a game costs £30, would it have been given a different score if it cost £25? It’s another good reason why scores are such a pain in the arse. There it seems silly to score it differently, but what if it was a game that last as long as a £40 game, but only cost £1? Does it change then?

      I write PC Gamer’s budget section, where I *do* let prices affect the score, because I believe there it’s special circumstances. These are games being released for a second time, with the focus on value for money. But because I believe it’s still very problematic, I always say explicitly in the text that I’ve done this.

    • MrEvilGuy says:


    • Urthman says:

      Zwebbie, what do you mean “take price into account”? He didn’t put a score on the review and then give the game +10% for being cheap.

      Are you saying he shouldn’t mention the price?

    • Zwebbie says:

      Urthman: No, I think this WIT is good; as I read it, John said “It’s shoddy, but cheap” and a lot of the commenters read that as “It’s shoddy even for its price”, which is something completely different.

  4. terry says:

    Well I enjoyed it :-)

  5. Uhm says:

    John: “The poker is terrible. The dialogue is the best bit. And it’s cheap.”

    No, John, you’re wrong. The dialogue is the best bit. The poker isn’t very good. But it’s cheap!

  6. steggieav says:

    I’ll be honest. I have only the vaguest idea how to play poker. I’ve been thinking of buying this to get a nice, easy poker game. Maybe I should reconsider. Does anybody know any good tutorials on how to play poker?

    • terry says:

      As observed, the game isn’t actually all that good at poker, which is a good thing ™ if you’re also not very good. I’ve managed a couple of unlocks and a couple of hands that obliterated half the table, so you won’t struggle with this one. John’s (valid) complaint with the game is it’s rubbish if you know your way about, as the AI is too random to get a good fix on. I learned to play through pub games and the odd round of Poker For Dummies on the laptop which is also a not-very-good poker game for the same reasons – it plays reasonably sharp limit games but as soon as you unlock no-limit games it goes berserk.

  7. MikoSquiz says:

    I don’t really have a problem with Max and Strong Bad being poor players. They’re Max and Strong Bad. (I do have a problem with Strong Bad being incredibly grating and unfunny, but this wasn’t addressed.) As it is, Tycho is clearly the strongest player in the game, ridiculously cautious until it comes down to the one-on-one and then difficult to read and prone to large bluffs just when you’re used to seeing him fold three out of every four hands. He’s tricky to read, but clearly not random.

    • John Walker says:

      Well here is where subjectivity is at its strongest – I found Strong Bad very funny in this game, frequently laughing at his lines.

  8. Tim says:

    I agree with the motion to ignore John Walker. Sad…

  9. Aliasi says:

    I think Poker Night did what it set out to do, which is allow you to play poker with the four characters in question. I also agree that they don’t play very good poker, but they seem to play about as I would expect. Max is random, Strong Bad will bluff on anything, Heavy, once he gets an idea in his head, hangs onto it tenaciously, and Tycho actually has some clue how to play poker.

    It’s not a good general Hold’Em simulator because it’s not even trying in the first place, IMO.

  10. TCM says:

    Man RPS has really gone downhill.

    The comment thread, I mean. The writing’s spot-on as usual.

  11. thesundaybest says:

    Alright…I don’t want to but…

    how can John take whether you enjoyed the game or not into account during his review. No seriously, how? Tell me. Tell John.

    “You’re right, of course. We should put player enjoyment in a vacuum, except when the reviewer fails to enjoy a game, in which case it’s incredibly important.”

    I mean, seriously – is this 4chan? Where am I? I must have missed the part where reviewers have to consider every single possible reaction they can have to a game, and also the part where that’s what people want to read. When I went to read John Walker’s review, what I really wanted, but didn’t know, was a rundown of everyone else’s reaction to the game.

    They made a deck that you can’t even see. If that’s not worthwhile to mention in a review…I don’t even know how to finish that sentence.

    • Xocrates says:

      I’m pretty sure the post you quoted was said sarcastically.

      Of course a reviewer can’t know other people’s reaction from a game. He may be able to predict some of it if he believes the seeds are there, but at most all he could say is that some people may enjoy it, though it’s obvious that’s an expendable side note.

      And to be fair, while the design on that particular deck is incredibly stupid, the use of the deck is entirely optional.

  12. nakke says:

    “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.”

    Are you saying an experienced player wouldn’t like to play with complete beginners? Wat? Obviously it has nothing to do with this game since you don’t bet any real monetary value here (and thus it can’t really be called poker), but that’s a pretty silly statement. Yes, metagame between actual good opponents is fun and all, but only beginners say beginners make the game harder to beat because they’re “random” or whatnot. Everybody has patterns.

    • drewski says:

      They’re easy to take money off, but annoying to have at your table.

    • geldonyetich says:

      Bah, apparently if you edit the same post often enough it triggers the spambot’s wrath.

      Anyway, it’s funny to see that Max and Strong Bad often come out on top of the campaigns considering that Max is highly erratic (I saw him throw away three of a kind jacks for no good reason whatsoever) and Strong Bad is supposedly the newbie. Tycho acts more like you’d expect, a reasonable player who may pull the occasional ludicrous bluff if he thinks he can get away with it, but he’s usually wiped out. Poker strategy aside, it seems the luck of the draw is rules the table.

    • nakke says:

      drewski: That makes no sense.

    • drewski says:

      Consider a first person shooter multiplayer against a n00b – someone who just stands in your sights and shoots at you until he’s dead. You’re jumping around, strafing, throwing grenades, using cover – he just finds you and stands in one spot until he dies (or, occasionally, you die because he catches you low on health or he found a rocket launcher or whatever).

      You get your kills and you get the win, but it’s not really satisfying. Part of the fun of poker is *playing poker* – if you just want to take some kid’s money, punch him in the face and take his wallet.

  13. Vinraith says:

    That’s a real shame. Obviously expecting a good poker game here would be a bit outlandish, but expecting an adequate one was reasonable, it sounds like you’d be better off playing one of those old Apple IIe card games. I’m also not surprised that the dialogue runs out quickly, but I’d have wagered a bit longer than the 20 minutes mentioned here. It’s cheap, but a cheap bad game is still a bad game. Thanks for the honest appraisal, John.

    • The Dark One says:

      The interesting thing is, the telltale guys mentioned over at Giant Bomb that it featured the most dialogue of any game they’d made.

      Also that there were more lawyers working on the project than developers. (I still enjoyed it!)

    • Xocrates says:

      Actually, I think the problem is less the amount of dialogue and more the fact that they really REALLY like to repeat themselves. There is plenty of stuff I only heard once, as well as one I never heard the entire dialogue, and I suspect there are others I’ve never heard.

  14. DrGonzo says:

    This review sounded like it was pointing out the problems of poker more than the actual Telltale game. After all, poker IS a lottery, it is just based on luck. Skill only comes into play when you know your opponents and whatnot. It can still be fun, but from a game design point of view, poker sucks man.

    • TCM says:

      I’m curious how you believe professional poker players make a living.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but I presume that professional players do a lot of research into their opponents before they play them?

      From my experience, being good at poker requires knowing the %s and how likely it is that you have the best hand. Which, thinking about it makes me wonder why it’s so hard to program AI to play it.

      Don’t get me wrong, I know poker is fun, just that I don’t think it’s well designed as a game, otherwise it would be fun without money.

    • DrugCrazed says:

      As has been mentioned several times, luck does play a part of it, but the part that people forget is that you can win with a mathematically worse hand just by betting over the top.

      For example, I played once and folded except at least one picture card suited, otherwise I bet something stupid like 10 times the blinds. Eventually people caleld me, realised I wasn’t bluffing, and stayed out of my way whenever I bet big. So I occasionally did so with absolute rubbish. People were too scared to call me because as far as they were concerned, I had a powerful hand behind me.

      On the subject of poker AI, sometimes you want it to fold, even when it has a golden hand. If I always come in with top pairs, and the flop is something like QKA, you probably don’t want to call me if I raise. Here, it won’t remember that I’ve only played top pairs or similar, so the tactic of bleeding them is harder.

    • KillahMate says:

      @DrGonzo: You need money for poker because that’s what hooks into the psyche of the player, and the point of poker is that what you see is only half of the game, the other half is in the brains of the players. If you take out the money you’re left with half a game, and that half is not very good on its own. Reasonably enough.

  15. Dinger says:

    I think John’s given a fair take of the game, but I can’t shake the feeling that he’s missed it on this one.

    In thirty years, we’ll look at this game as hopelessly primitive, just as Apple ][ Flight Simulator looks primitive to us. But look for a minute at what John’s criticizing:
    A. Conversations that are repetitive. Yes, I agree. The repeating started in about 30 minutes (although the right-mouse button helps a lot), but I was still getting interesting, and sometimes hilarious banter several hours in. The Heavy’s story about the Engineer’s wrench: gold.
    B. Non-intuitive poker play. I have to say, on Normal, the players played like I thought they would (which could very well equal confirmation bias writing the narrative for me): Max was wild, the Heavy was aggressive and Tycho played tight. On Hard (or difficult, or whatever it’s called), the differences weren’t there. I could chase people off of bets, and I could find people bluffing from time to time. Regardless, they’re just not human.
    C. Inappropriate comments. Most of the time, Tycho makes observations about playing bad cards that make sense in the context, but not always. Most of the time, when the Heavy complains about “baby bets”, the bets are small. And please, Tycho, one time is enough for that stupid Czech joke.

    Good grief, these are exactly the points on which an AI is going to show its weak points. As for the bugs, okay, I think I had that thing running nearly ten hours (I had trouble sleeping. Don’t judge me), and I lost one hand due to a non-continuable situation. I’d say I noted ten minor bugs to boot.
    So it does not following the official tournament betting rules of Texas Hold’em: those are still in the house rules. In truth, Seven Card Stud would have worked better in the comic context, but, no doubt, its relatively lack of popularity is a hindrance.

    On the other hand, the animation and the direction are world-class, and the music’s good too.

    The point? In spite of its weaknesses, Poker Night tries to create a dynamic experience, melding canned (dialogue/banter) and emergent (poker) elements. It succeeds in some ways, and fails in others. But it’s cheap and worth checking out just to see how the designers bring a (poker-)structured dialogue alive.

    The last PC poker game I played was Amiga Strip poker, on Prom Night. They advertised that game as featuring three potential opponents, one of whom was “Completely Inept”. Playing five-card draw, I saw all of them pixel-nekkid, but I never figured out which one couldn’t play poker. Poker Night is a far better game.

  16. DSVella says:

    I pre purchased the game and i think John is not giving the poker AI enough credit. Its simple, fun and funny.

    Well worth the pocket change needed to buy.

  17. Gabe Kotick says:

    “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.”

    There’s always the TF2 items though. If only more shit games sold TF2 items.

    Maybe Valve should implement an item store in TF2?

  18. Wahngrok says:

    I mainly agree with the review and I’m having fun with the game still. so everything is fine for me. Best bug I encountered: After folding after the flop I watched the game until the turn when I clicked on the “Next Hand” button. Announcer: “The player has won the hand!”. WTF? And I even got the chips… :D

  19. manveruppd says:

    tbh at £3 it’s worth it for the half hour’s amusing banter alone :)

  20. Mr_Day says:

    I have mentioned this on me twitter, and I suppose a lot of people will be angry with it, but:

    I have now won three of the four items you can get from the game.

    I have no idea how to play poker.

    I thought I was getting the hang of it with this game, but from reading the complaints it seems I have simply picked up the bad habits of the ai players. I will play any hand I have, no matter what, to see if the others will fold. They usually do, and if not I think my stats back me up at around 50% win loss rate.

    End result, I am still a terrible player, I do not know what a full house or a straight is, though I have achievements for winning with them, and I think I won’t bother with the game anymore if I win the final item from Tycho. Who really is a douche in the game, it has to be said. He told me off for winning a hand, then congratulated me for it. Bug? Maybe. Still irritating.

    EDIT: Just won the watch. And seen all the banter, I reckon. If only this had been integrated into an interesting verion of the X Box Game Room.

  21. pilouuuu says:

    What? No news about Telltale’s own Back to the Future game? They’ve just released in-game screenshots!

    Back to this game… If only they could play Pazaak and Guybrush was present here…

  22. Prio says:

    I just limped to the flop as often as possible. You can get away with it easily: it’s fairly uncommon for any of the characters to bet significant money pre-flop, especially on normal difficulty. It was pretty much “fold complete shit, call anything semi-decent, modestly raise on anything good.”

    To be honest, I’m not the biggest world-class poker expert and all, but other than the insane looseness of the table (which is understandable in a game where you don’t want to hear “fold fold fold” spoken twenty or so ways in hand after hand after hand), the AI doesn’t seem -that- wretched. I may just suck, though. It took me like a whole 3-4 hours to get the four TF2 unlocks on Normal difficulty.

  23. Sinomatic says:

    I’m a total poker novice, and (repetitions of conversations aside) I’ve really quite enjoyed my 2 or 3 hours in the game so far.

    Apart from some obvious graphical or audio bugs, I couldn’t really tell you anything about the strengths or weaknesses in the gameplay or the AI. I can only really subjectively comment on the humor (Tycho is annoying me). John’s tone might come across as a bit harsh to someone in my position, but its fairly obvious that he knows enough about poker to see the flaws in the gameplay where I can’t.

    Its actually good to know that I should probably go elsewhere if I want to continue to learn.

    Oh and two questions:
    – What do river and flop mean?
    – Is there somewhere I can specifically play poker against my friends (and them only) over the net? I get the impression I’d learn more from playing with them than I will against crazy AI.

    • terry says:

      The flop is when the three community cards are dealt, the river is the fifth card to be played.

      I’ve had some good games with friends on the Facebook poker thing if you’re looking for casual games, though there are probably better.

    • John Walker says:

      In Texas Hold ‘Em each player is given two cards (the “hole cards”) and then five “community cards” are put down on the table. The aim is to form the best five card hand from the seven – your two and the five shared ones.

      The first three community cards are called the “flop”. Then the fourth is the “turn” card, and the fifth is the “river”.

    • Sinomatic says:

      Ah, thank you, most helpful.

      As for facebook…*shudders* Can’t stand the place, bad enough that I have to go there to keep tabs on certain folk (that sounded more stalker-ish than intended). Anywhere else?

      Its actually a shame that there isn’t any multiplayer in Inventory. I know it’d probably have to be either single player with bots OR just players, as mixing between the two would likely be messy with the conversations, but it would have made the game a lot more worthwhile and probably worth playing in the long term. I suppose, for £3, that’s not really what they were going for though.

      What a shame.

  24. MrEvilGuy says:

    I figure I might as well repost this as a new comment…

    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.

  25. reticulate says:

    Hey John, I was wondering what you thought of the poker in Red Dead Redemption?

    They’ll do stupid AI things on occasion, but there’s a certain feeling of accomplishment when you call out a bluff of ace high when playing cards with computer-generated characters.

  26. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    I’m here to chant with the angry mob, get your torches burn the poor reviewerist! :P hehe, looks like you’ve got a bit of a handful with this WIT. I’ll not jump in as well (as I do not care too much for poker, I rather set up a gauntlet on ArmA 2 and see if I can make it to the other side XD)
    –Just think every one needs to relax a bit

  27. Premium User Badge

    Aquarion says:

    This is a subjective review. John knows how to play poker, and if you treat it as a serious poker game, you’ll probably be disappointed. Telltale tell us there *are* tells and ways to see if a player is bluffing, and Max (in particular)’s habit of trebling the pot on a bluff is annoying, but I think the thing people actually end up hating about the game is this:

    The dialogue random number generator needs a wrench applied.

    If this were just a game of poker we don’t take seriously, that would be fine, but the fact you end up only playing to hear the random dialogue you haven’t yet (because when its new, it’s funny) means that the repeating nature of it gets old.

    I think the game would be measurably improved by a button that says “don’t repeat any dialogue in three games”. Better still, an invisible button. That’s been pressed already.

    In each thread I’ve seen bashing the game (on a few forums, here, other Sources of Truth) there are a lot of people who get the same line over and over, and it’s never the same line. For someone above it was the “czech” line – which I’ve heard once, and loved – for John it was Strongbad & Heavy Boxing. For me it’s Max, Superball and Scrabble.

    • terry says:

      I have seen some visible tells, but they seem quite rare, and seem to be interrupted if a “conversation” dialogue is playing. If the Heavy smirks, you generally know that he’s actually got a good hand and not just throwing chips around, and to fold that shit like a freshly laundered bedsheet. StrongBad generally starts goading even more than usual (hard to notice) if he gets into a betting war with a strong hand, Tycho will turn to the side and smirk between turns if he’s holding pocket aces. I routinely put Max out in the first few hands, so haven’t seen much for him beyond him fidgeting with his chips.

  28. Luis Matheus says:

    This game is awesome, a great Poker game and REALLY funny lines, i think the reviewer is a Poker adict that never saw a Penny arcade comic, never played TF2 or anything.

  29. Brandon says:

    I’ll agree that the homestar deck is idiotically designed, and certain characters will regularly bet such random crap with such crap that I can’t tell if they’ve actually got something worth a damn or are just ‘Being Max.’ It seems Max and Strongbad are intentionally set up to bet like complete morons, while Tycho’s a bit more prudent, with Heavy falling somewhere in between.

    However, I disagree on the dialog entirely, yes, it loses the charm, but it never becomes annoying to me, and they recorded enough of it that I’ve sunk 40-some odd hours into it and I’m still hearing new lines from time to time, and some of the banter is funny even on the repeat. I’ll admit that the actual poker related dialog gets really repetitive, though.

    I won’t say anything about how it compares to actual poker rules, as I am a rare player, and I never played Texas Hold ‘Em outside of this game. However, I disagree with anyone who implies it’s simply for the TF2 items. I won them all rather quickly, and yet I continue to play for the in-game unlocks and dialog.

    The price can’t be emphasized enough. For less than 5 US dollars, cheaper than a movie ticket, you can get hours of entertainment and dialog. The game was worth it before they even announced the TF2 unlocks. With the unlocks, it’s practically a steal for a TF2 player.

    • Brandon says:

      Heck, there’s even dialog referencing the fact that Max and Strongbad are actually just flat out bad at the game.

  30. ouij says:

    I can’t believe that a videogame starring a menagerie of cartoon characters would be anything less than the most accurate simulation of poker ever devised. Here I was ready to hand my firstborn child over to TTG to sacrifice to whatever deity they bribed for the electronic poker equivalent of Jesus Christ until you delivered me from the jaws of tragedy. My heart, my wallet, and my unborn children thank you, John.

    Do you do premonitions as well? I’m curious as to whether or not their new “Back to the Future” game will try to rape me and everyone I care about.

  31. Ru says:

    This review is so full of butthurt. I can’t believe what a whiny ass hat this guy is. IT WAS FIVE DOLLARS.

    • Tim says:

      Bang bang, agreed.

    • Unheard Of says:

      Yes, it’s a cheap game, but that’s irrelevant if it isn’t fun. Buying this isn’t just a waste of $5 dollars, it’s also a waste of time that could be spent playing something better. Considering the current sale on Steam it isn’t hard to find a better way to spend your time at the same price.

    • Tim says:

      @Unheard Of
      Yeah, but the thing is, Poker Night is awesome, it isn’t the bollocks it’s made out to be.

    • Unheard Of says:

      :shrug: I’ve played it and come to the opposite opinion. It wasn’t the worst game of poker I’ve ever had, but it isn’t something I’ll be returning to. The worst poker game ever involved a friend’s whiny, insecure gf who didn’t understand the game and took every bet against her as a personal attack.

    • Tim says:

      @Unheard Of
      Kay, that made me laugh =P
      I’ll agree to disagree.

    • Alex Bakke says:

      You should have agreed to disagree from the very start, with John’s review. It’s what *he* thinks, afterall.

  32. squirrelfanatic says:

    “Tycho” from Penny Arcade doesn’t seem to read much RPS. His comment on the release of the game (quoting from pennyarcade.com):

    “Poker Night At The Inventory is out, and I’ve read some really nice things about it sur le web. I wrote a few lines, but mostly looked after tone, which they seemed to have a strong handle on already. I snuck a few lines in for other characters as well, because when am I gonna have an opportunity like that again? Fun project, though. A+++, would work with again, etc.”

    Also: All hear, all hear. Ye Trollse striketh at RPS again.

  33. Shingro says:

    I just wanted to submit a bit of a different perspective. I kinda felt that this wasn’t supposed to be a game vs experienced players of poker, and more “lets play vs these people”

    I feel the betting is more about the fact that they are trying to represent a playing style in line with the character personalities.

    Tycho thinks the most of of the lot, he’ll fold bad hands outright most of the time and he won’t raise you unless he has something. (yes he doesn’t always, but way more then everyone else)

    Max’s betting is insane, much like max…. who is insane. In fact max often gleefully comments on how much he loves financial recklessness.

    Strongbad likes to try to push people around with money, especially if they seem weaker then him. If you check against him he’ll almost always raise you several thousand by the end of the hand. This strikes me as a very Strongbad thing to do.

    The Heavy tends to be a bit more methodical and slow. You can depend on him checking in the first round of betting unless his hole cards are obviously good. I say obvious because he also seem a bit dumb, which uh… sorry heavy… but that makes sense too >_>

    I’m not saying this is a Good Poker Game, but it is a pretty good stab at what would happen if you got these guys together and said “hey lets all play poker, even if it’s a game we’re not wildly familiar with” In fact I think several dialog bits remark on the players relative (in)experience levels, from Strong bad (who is a newbie) to Tycho, who “actually knows the rules” but isn’t a card sharp or anything, he’s a gamer working of basic probabilities. Much like most gamers in line to get this game.

    I’d say it’s worth its a game for the characters rather then for the game. If you like the characters more then the game, get it. If you like the game more then the characters, stay away it’ll only frustrate you.

    (I will say, that once it gets to 1v1 whoever your playing gets extra dumb, probably to keep you from having to play 1v1 for 40 minutes, but yeah….)

  34. Flappybat says:

    I really like the game but I can understand John’s objections and don’t fault him for viewing the game in such a negative light. I know nothing about poker so the problems of AI were beyond me, although the weakness of the writing outside the heavy is quite clear.

  35. CJ Waz says:

    This review is far to harsh for the game and it’s directed audience. While the author may be particularly experienced in playing poker, most of the people that will buy and play this game are probably not. Most of the comments seem to be reflective of an audience that has little to no experience playing hold’em and this game is great for teaching someone the basics and as well as learning to read players (as best as a simulator could do) as well as learning the probabilities behind certain hands (without being fed them like on TV) It’s great practice for someone learning the game and for the price of a starbucks drink, the value/cost is well worth it. I think it’s particularly interesting that the author complains about the lack of bluffing but then also complains about betting high on a relatively bad hand. If you play through one or two tournaments, you learn that the characters each have personalities ranging from the more risky, tend to bluff more (on the left of the table) to the very conservative (on the right of the table). I.E. Tycho almost never bluffs you but occ. does and pisses you off when he does; with Max, 50% of his hands are bluffs but if you call him on it 50% of the time he beats you with something like a pocket pair that went trip on the flop. Kinda teaches you to read into personalities too which is important when playing against real players. To give the author some credit, it doesn’t beat playing real people but it’s the best poker sim I’ve played and well worth the price. And if you absolutely hate the game, you spent $5 on some Tf2 items, no big.

  36. Guy Mc Guy says:

    I understood very very little of this review. Please understand that the majority of people who’d want to play this are probably fans of adventure games, and Team Fortress 2.

    I bought the game, it’s an absolute laugh. I’ve no idea how to play poker – but the game is fun. I’ve gotten my 5bucks worth already.

    Rockpapershotgun please get a video game journalist to review your games in future, so that we can understand the review.

    • DH says:

      John’s not a video game journalist now?

      But really, while John might not have put a lot of consideration towards the game’s intended audience of complete beginners, I would at least expect a poker game to know the rules of poker.

      I don’t mean the AI “players”, I mean the game. Based on the review, it seems like the developers themselves honestly didn’t know some of the rules of poker and tournament betting… Which, no matter what way you spin it, is going to result in an objectively poor poker game.

    • Sinomatic says:

      Games journalist reviews a poker game on the basis of its poker.

      You might have got your money out of it as a novice (as did I) but you can’t expect John to suddenly forget how to play poker to review the game. The whole fact that we can’t understand the review should maybe clue you in to the fact that we are too inexperienced in Poker to know any better.

      Its a shallow game based on (apparently) wobbly poker, repetitive and subjectively funny humour and the prospect of TF2 items. That’s going to be enough for some people, especially at the price, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be reviewed properly.

  37. Feet says:

    I’d suggest people are only getting annoyed with the negativity in this WiT because the game has some popular and much loved characters from other games and\or mediums. The poker contained within really isn’t relevant to them, not compared to the slightly-interactive animated short that they’ve purchased for very little money.

  38. Kernel Cinders says:

    There’s a LOT more then twenty minutes of “banter” in this game, and for $5 you get your money’s worth.

    I’ve played for a few hours and will play until I unlock everything, and there are *still* conversations that I haven’t heard before. Yes, some of the comments are repetitive, but my God, a couple of the conversations brought tears to my eyes because of laughing so hard. The Heavy’s story about getting revenge on an engineer that was in his base is so funny I had to get up from my chair, and the reactions of everyone else at the table was priceless.

    Replay value is minimal once everything is unlocked, but again, we’re talking $5 here, not a slightly-used, overpriced IPAD. /shrug

  39. Gaiash says:

    I see no problem in them repeating the dialogue. Unlike John I enjoy hearing something I find funny repeatedly. Heck I’ll replay a clip five times in a row if I’m especially fond of it, in this game’s case I played a clip of Strong Bad and Heavy’s Spy conversation.

    As for the Poker what you see as a problem I see as perfect. This isn’t a game for Poker fans. It’s a game for Team Fortress 2, Homestar Runner, Penny Arcade and Sam & Max fans using Poker as the format. I know nothing about how to play Poker but I have a lot of fun playing this game. To me this is the only Poker game worth playing.

  40. Kernel Cinders says:

    I just finished unlocking the last deck and I can definitely confirm that there are more conversations added as you “progress” and “unlock” the decks and tables, which makes sense.

    I’m not going to spoil it anymore then I already have, but if you want to hear them all, play until all the decks are unlocked. By that time the last table will be unlocked as well.

    I’ll just leave saying this much: The last unlocked table is very cool. You won’t be disappointed (at least I don’t think anyone will . . .). =)

  41. Mark says:

    I’ve played it quite a bit and not had much of a problem with lines repeating, and you allude to a few in your review that are unfamiliar to me. So either I’ve got a bad memory or I’m very lucky. Either way, it’s got enough of these characters going back and forth that I consider it $5 well spent.

    (what is a blind)

  42. MindFukr says:

    I pretty much agree with this whole Wot I Think. I’ve played the game for 68 minutes and I’ve already heard the same boring jokes over and over. AI is pretty easy to figure out, they’re just playing dumb.

  43. TheTourist314 says:

    The only reason this game exists is to get TF2 items for less than the Mann Co. Store. That’s all I play it for.

  44. Andy says:

    Hmmm. I really enjoyed this game, and at a measly fiver, worth every cent. I am, however, a massive Penny Arcade / Sam & Max fan, as well as being as Valve fanboy as every PC gamer is nowadays… so maybe my viewpoint doesn’t count.

    When I reviewed this game, I totally dismissed every poker element and instead decided to review this based on what it genuinely brings to the table – some of the funniest, wittiest, and smartest dialogue ever to grace a videogame. For that, it’s more than worth the price.

  45. DarkQuill says:

    I had an odd bug. Max and Strongbad, as well as myself, as the last players in. Eliminated Max, said he was off to do whatever, and instead just sat at the table, during the entire showdown with Strongbad, even engaging in chit-chat dialogue with him.

    Regardless, it’s a decent game for the price paid. There are worse games/DLCs you could buy.

  46. bill says:

    I gotta admit i gave up reading that review half way through because I had no idea what it was talking about. Way too much poker language which is like latin to me.

    I thought this was a casual comedy game where half the characters bet randomly and the other half are stupid?

  47. Mumblez says:

    The game is alright. I ain’t that good at poker and I played like 3 hours or so. It was fun at first, after the voice lines started repeating themselves… Not so much. Still bearable. Accidentally got most of the TF2 unlocks, which was nice. The one that I actually had to work for was the Iron Curtain. I just kept going all-in, all the time and when Hoovy called it I got lucky. Seriously, going all-in is the best strategy it seems… I’d say if you play TF2 and you know at least 1 other character you’ll have some fun for a while, and since it’s so cheap why the hell not?

  48. Tony says:

    Talking of bugs, I’ve had Strong Bad’s shovel stuck in the middle of the screen when I was right clicking to hurry them up…

  49. Leo says:

    I can somewhat agree but when you said the betting was borked about the raising limits you forgot the game is “No limit hold ’em”

    So low raises are allowed

  50. 2Lagged2Frag says:

    First, I think I must have somehow gotten a different version of the game. I mean, no graphical glitches, no lag, no incorrect declarations of the winning hand.

    Also, the players all have different styles – Tycho is really cautious and folds if he has crap, and pretty much only goes all-in if he has the best possible hand. The Heavy is pretty balanced, I’d say 50% to 66% of my showdowns are with him. Strong Bad is aggressive, and Max is pure insanity. I mean folding with a full house on the flop one time, going all in with a crappy high card on another hand insanity. Maybe he isnt joking when he says he didnt even look at his cards.

    Is anyone else having this experience, with the characters having styles, rather than being random?