Texas Hold 'Em Poker
One of the more interesting fads of the past year has been this version of poker, but is it any fun on the GBA?
Wow, when did texas hold 'em poker suddenly gather like a phenomenon? One minute I'm enjoying good old fashioned billiards and the next, they've set up playing tables all over the bars and they're engaging fans in the game. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. With a group of friends and even the hardcore gamblers, Texas Hold 'Em Poker can be a fun little activity...as long as you don't walk away having spent the rent on a particular hand. Now, it looks like the game's gathered enough of a following for Majesco to try their hand at a video game version, and it's arrived for the Game Boy Advance.
Texas Hold 'Em Poker is your run-of-the-mill card game, as it doesn't really try to be anything else. Nor does it really need to, mind you. For the most part, the game successfully captures the essence of Texas Hold 'Em, right down to letting you learn the basics of limit play, raising, and building up a solid hand between the dealer and your hole cards. The question is, is it the sort of game that requires a purchase, or are you better off playing with your friends at the bar?
Well, one thing I noticed that was included in the game is the Career Mode, which allows you to take your own professional and push him (or her) through the ranks, working your way through tournaments and becoming better (or worse) along the way. It's not that deep a mode, but it is interesting to check out, and you'll take on a number of computer-controlled opponents along the way. Majesco tried to inject some personalities into these players, but the problem is, they become too easy to read after just a few hands. You'll be able to tell who reacts to what if you play long enough, allowing you to rethink your strategy for the win. It would have been nice for Majesco to include some real players from the TV events, and have their consulting on hand to provide a bit more challenge.
The gameplay is pretty basic, and it works, but the game never really builds the momentum it promises. That's because it doesn't really give you the opportunity to get into it with other human players. The game lacks any sort of multiplayer option, which is a big bust because it would have benefitted here. Part of the thrill of Poker is not just winning or losing, but the little shifts of power that you have with your opponents to try and show them who's boss. This seems more like a little nudge on the shoulder than a full-on shove, and that may bore a lot of you.
Also, I think more could have been done with the interface. What's here isn't bad, and allows you to get a look at things pretty good, right down to a close-up view of your cards. But it never really changes in terms of design or spunk, not in the way of little TV presentation tricks or anything. Worse yet, the sound becomes dry way too quickly, between voice samples that are robotically delivered and music that grates on the nerves as it runs into its tenth repeating.
Like I said, Texas Hold 'Em Poker isn't a terrible package. For $20, you get the ins and outs of the sport packed into a GBA cartridge, period. But it doesn't really try to capture the essence or thrill of the game too much, and it takes the easy way out in just being average. Some might like that sort of thing, and if so, go for it. As for me, I'll be at the bar, engaging in a real-time round and chuckling it up with my buddies.
What's Hot: Captures the basics and rules of Texas Hold 'Em poker at a budget price.
What's Not: Annoying sound and a lack of personality hold this one back.