Reviews

Full House Poker – Review

Xbox Live Arcade Title
Price: 800MSP
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: Yes

Microsoft’s House Party event is ending by bringing the addictive game of poker to Xbox Live Arcade, minus the actual gambling part. Happily, it’s still addictive!

Full House Poker has a slight problem as there are plenty of free poker games and sites out there, as well as a few poker games on the Indie channel of Xbox 360. For 800MSP you’re getting plenty to set it apart though, from an extensive singleplayer to a fun multiplayer and plenty of unlockables. And it features Avatars! If that wasn’t enough then the fact that it’s a spirtual sequel to 1 vs 100 should be enough.

The singleplayer aspects are the first stop for this review, and will most likely be the fist stop for players who don’t play poker in real life. For those people starting off can be a daunting affair. Sure there are tutorials to help you learn the basics, but the real tactics and details of the game can only be learned through play so it really is recommended that you start in the singleplayer if you’re new.
Happily you’re not playing for real cash here, which is a blessing as my rusty butt got handed to me as I got my poker playing skills back again. The game starts you off with 2,500 chips to bet with, and if you ever run out you can simply get more at the cost of  XP (more on that soon).
The downside is simple: because you’re not playing with real cash it does take away a large chunk of what poker is about. Betting in real poker is a tense affair as you calculate what you can afford to lose compared to what you may gain. When you’re playing for virtual currency the thrill isn’t quite there when you bet a heap of chips, and that means online has a good number of players just going all-in with their chips on a constant basis.

Anyway, back to the singleplayer game. You can quickly set up games with varying amounts of AI opponents and a few different game styles to play. You can also pick venue’s, table styles, look of the cards and your Avatars clothes, all of which are unlocked through the – now almost compulsory – XP system which see’s you earn XP for practically everything. You can unlock new titles for your characters, tricks to perform with chips and more as you level up.
The AI does a good job of challenging you during games, but can be beaten by using  unusual play, something which real players will usually punish you for. The XP system is constant through singleplayer and multiplayer as well.
Along with that you can take part on Showdowns which put you up against a single “pro” player for big chip prizes. The play-styles these guys used are modelled on real world players, and they make a welcome break from the normal games.

Wonder outside of singleplayer and you can get into the online world where most of the fun in Full House Poker awaits. As good as the AI is, it’s never going to compare to trying to out-bluff a real person. Sadly the art of reading an opponents face is rather lost here as you’ll be looking at the faces of players Avatars instead, which have amazingly good poker faces.
You can get games going and join them with ease, and getting a private game going with a group of friends and a few beers is the highlight of Full House Poker.

And did I mention that this game is essentially a spiritual successor to 1 vs 100? Regular Texas Heat tournaments take place which last around the half hour mark each and feature loads of players. Regardless of the chip amount you have you can take part in these tournaments which focus on the amount of XP earned rather than chip count to win. Considering you get XP for smart folds and for almost every action it’s a good system.
Like 1 vs 100 it’s all done in a TV show style with a commentator for good measure.
There are three tables and getting enough chips raises you up a table, lost chips and you go back down. it’s really that simple.

Full House Poker is present in a sleek and simple style with bright visuals and a cartoony look that matches the Avatars perfectly. The interface is simple and easy to use making snap decisions a breeze.

Little more can be said about Full House Poker. It’s good value for money and fun to play, especially online. Obviously if you don’t like poker in real-life then you probably won’t like this, and doubtless many people will fail to see the reasons behind playing a gambling game without the actual gambling.

The Good:
+ Winning a huge pot!
+ Bluffing your opponent online. Sucker.
+No risk of losing money to card sharks!

The Bad:
– No risk means online is filled with those that go all in with their chips constantly.
– There are many free poker games out there.
– Losing your chips to a dumb bluff.

Graphics: 7
Bright and cartoony, but nothing special.

Sound: 7.5
Not much to say except quiet background music and a decent commentary voice for tutorials. Venue’s sound nice and buys and the cheer you get for winning big is nice.

Story: 0
Um.

Gameplay: 8.5
Fun and addictive. The online is really where it’s at.

Lifespan: 8.5
An extensive singleplayer couple with good multiplayer. The actual lifespan is hard to determine.

Overall: 8
A fine addition to Xbox Live Arcade and a good way to round of the House Party. It’s fun, charming and great with friends.

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