Poker Smash Reviews

  • Tasty PastryTasty Pastry384,331
    07 Jan 2010 09 Jul 2011
    31 2 9
    Poker Smash Review
    Forward Notes:

    This was one of my first arcade games I ever bought, and I really bought it before I understood achievements as I do now. I originally purchased it with the intention of playing it with the then girlfriend, as a laidback game that was easy to learn, and difficult to master.

    Single Player:


    The game is a relatively simple tetris style game, but instead of making straight lines of blocks you are instead making poker hands. With the exception of the pair, making a three of a kind will remove those blocks from the board and grab you some points, all the way up to a straight flush. The game only uses the ten, jack, queen, king, and ace cards, but with all four suits. Slowly the board will rise towards the top, a daunting line, that if the blocks cross the game is finished. Creating different types of hands are worth different amount of points – a flush is worth more than a three of a kind. The game will also give you random challenges on the right side of the screen, such as making a straight, and will present you with a time limit. Completing the challenge within the time limit will net you a significant amount of points.

    The game also utilizes a slow down/speed up system, in which you can cause the poker blocks to rise faster on the screen, or temporarily slow down in a desperate attempt to figure out some matches. Your slow down usage is based on a slowly refilling bar on the screen. The game also gives you bombs to use while you play to be able to basically eliminate a block from the screen, making it easier to make poker hands.

    The most effective way to increase your points quickly is to do something called chaining. In this you make it so that as the hands are being made, they are constantly being made. For example – if I had a vertical line, with a king on top, and 2 jacks underneath, and I moved another jack underneath the two jacks, it would eliminate the three jacks with my three of a kind. The king would then fall – if it falls onto another two kings, it would create another three of a kind. This is what the game considers a chain. Of course they can usually be a lot more complicated than that, and the concept is actually extremely difficult to master, as you can tell by the ChainX24 achievement TA ratio.

    Similar to tetris, as you get farther into the game the speed of the coming blocks increases. This is indicated by a level number on the right side of the screen.

    Challenge Mode:

    Another choice for your gameplay is Challenge Mode. The game presents you with a picture of a group of cards, and your mission is to clear the board of cards – similar to Puzzle Quest if you have played that. It’s interesting and it does make you think, which is what you would hope for from this game. If you get stuck, you can go ahead and buy a video solution from the store with your saved up points – the points you have generated through playing the game.

    General Single Player Thoughts:

    The game is a consistent amount of exhibition style games, and this is a slight bit of a drawback. Similar to tetris you have no real story mode, which makes it feel like you are never really progressing anywhere in the game. Although there is some desire to beat your old score, there is a reason “high score” based games have fallen more towards the wayside. That isn’t to say the game isn’t fun – a great game to pick up and play at a whim for a couple of rounds when you want something simple and easy to do.

    The game has a very small learning curve, and almost all people will be able to understand it’s simple right stick flick controls. The game is difficult to master however, with the intricacy of the slow down/speed up usage and chain understanding. You have to severely invest yourself into the game if you want to rank up on the leaderboards and make a name for yourself.

    Single Player Score: 8/10


    The game has a simple online multiplayer system that you would absolutely expect it to be. You compete side by side, trying to get a higher score than your opponent. Doing well also “injures” your opponent as unmovable blocks fall onto his screen, impairing his ability to function. The controls and gameplay are absolutely the same except that you are in a split-screen mode, so I have nothing much more to add. Lag doesn’t seem to be an issue in the couple of games I’ve played.

    Multiplayer Score: 7/10


    One of the strongest parts of this game is the Store that is located inside the game. Rack up some points in your regular gameplay and you can spend them on anything you’d like. That could be videos on how to complete the challenge levels, or you could unlock in game themes or music. This means that you don’t have to waste your money on expensive DLC while still getting the nice effect.

    I didn’t expect much with the graphics considering it is just a bunch of tetris blocks, but the game looks crisp and nice. The game almost has a “neon” glow to it, and the menus even look crisp. It’s easy to identify what the card is – King of Hearts is easy to differentiate from Queen of Clubs. When you make a match the cards will “explode” which is visually appealing, and creating any kind of chains causes a kind of “zoom in”.
    The sound is all right – it can get pretty tedious after you’ve played a couple games in a row – but overall it’s pretty relaxing. Every couple of levels or so the music will change, and mostly it is best described as elevator music from Jamaica. Catchy sounds, and you’ll find yourself humming it, but easily mutable if you want to put on your own sounds.

    Graphics/Sound/DLC/Intangibles Score: 7/10


    The achievements in this game exemplify the definition of the word. There are some all right ones, but the majority are extremely difficult. They do make you play the game in different ways though to their credit – there is one for winning a game online, one for reaching level 7 by only making 3 of a kinds, and one for completing the challenge style mode.
    However, scoring a million points is near impossible without significant time investments in practicing, and scoring a 24X chain is obtained by less than 1% of the TA community.

    You can check out videos online in an attempt to understand how the professionals do it. There is a leaderboard that flashes on the bottom of the screen in a quick feed while you’re in the game, and as of the time of writing this there are only a couple hundred people over the million point mark. Definitely not an “easy 200”, and it is actually a pretty time consuming 70 even. But if you get good at the game you deserve those tasty ratios.

    Achievement Score: 5/10

    Final Score: 27/40 = 6.75/10 = 3.375/5

    Final Thoughts:

    A game that is very simple to learn and very difficult to master. Solid graphics and sound for what the game presents, but very difficult achievements make the game a daunting task. A largely single player game also detracts from a bit of the experience. Overall very fun, as long as you don’t expect it to be any more than what it is.

    Hope you liked my review. Please feel free to leave a comment below. I worked hard on this review, so if you feel I represented something incorrectly and are tempted to leave a negative vote, I ask you to please leave a comment below instead so that I may attempt to rectify the issue before you vote negatively.

    Showing most recent comments. View all comments.
    Tasty PastryThank you Mx!
    Posted by Tasty Pastry on 11 Jan 10 at 00:40
    SpylonAwesome Review. Thanks.
    Posted by Spylon on 24 Jun 10 at 18:51
    ERIKDOTCOMAnother great review. :D
    Posted by ERIKDOTCOM on 09 Jul 11 at 23:41
  • OtisFamilyOtisFamily26,201
    27 Oct 2008 28 Oct 2008
    21 2 2
    Poker Smash is a mix and match game best explained as a "Poker meets Bejewled/Tetris" combo. The gameplay is simple, you move around cards (Ace, face cards, and 10) in order to make hands of 3-of-a-kind and up; the largest hand is a 9 flush, which is 9 aligned cards having the same suit.
    An extra in-game feature, the Poker Smash Store, allows players to spend points earned in both the Arcade and Timed game modess to buy unique gamerpics, maps, and even the solutions to the Puzzle mode.
    Possibly what keeps this game so replayable is the online multiplayer, which is basically a tug-of-war match between you and your opponent, ending with one side reaching the top (and losing), or gaining all 100,000 points.
    A tournament game mode allows up to 5 people to battle it out over the poker chips, in a 'winner takes all' fight.

    The achievements in Poker Smash are a fairly difficult set, the hardest of which is Chain Monster, where you must create a x24 chain all at once, something that is much easier said than done. There are an even amount of easy and hard achievements, you can even get 1 or 2 on your first Arcade try, given you pick up the controls quickly.
    All this said, don't be expecting an easy 200 out of this. It's a great game with loads of replay value, but know that you'll need to spend many hours in order to fully complete it, most of which will involve practicing and honing your chaining skills.

    Poker Smash is easily my favorite XBLA at the moment, and that's before considering the online portion (which isn't all that active). It's got many unlockables and hard enough achievements to keep you playing for a long time, but don't fret, it's got the gameplay to make you want to devote those hours.