Poker portrayed in video game form has always lacked one element that getting a group of your friends together for a poker night has, the conversation. Telltale Games' Poker Night 2 Achievements takes the focus off of the cards, and brings it to the conversation at the table. But this begs the question, does that conversation enhance the quality of the game?
The premise of Poker Night 2 is simple. You are the fifth man at a $20,000 cash buy in tournament hosted at "The Inventory". Your competitors are multi-media stars from various forms of media: Brock Samson from Adult Swim's animated show The Venture Bros., Claptrap from Gearbox Software's Borderlands franchise, Sam from the Sam & Max video game and comic book series, and finally Ash Williams from the classic Army of Darkness movie. Your ever-so-gracious dealer for the evening is none other than Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System from Aperture Science research facilities, otherwise known as GLaDOS. Your ultimate goal is to be the last man standing at the table, however you should not rush to your goal. The banter between your competitors and the dealer makes the journey all the more interesting.
You start out playing Texas Hold'em, but after your initial tournament you have the option to play the Omaha variety of poker as well. For those of you unfamiliar with this variant of poker the premise is similar to Hold'em. You are dealt four "hole" cards, of which you must use your best two. You then need to use the best three cards from the five community cards that are dealt in a similar fashion to Hold'em. In addition to unlocking the ability to play Omaha after your first tournament, the bounty system is also introduced. To participate in the bounty system, you are given three random tasks you must complete. These do not all have to be completed in the same tournament, and once you have completed the tasks you are able to play for a special prize that is put up by one of the contestants. You must win that tournament to collect your bounty reward and the Avatar item associated with that bounty.
During the evening, you can also purchase libations for your whales that will help you identify their signature "tells". The more your competition imbibes, the easier it is for you to identify the strength or weakness of their current hand.
The card playing mechanics are just as great as the conversation itself. You can easily identify your hole cards at all times on the screen, as well as the community cards. Checks, bets, raises, and folds are easily indicated at the top of the screen. The presentation during all-in-showdowns is very much reminiscent of televised poker, with the camera angle zooming in on each contestants face as the next community card is turned over. Winning percentages are also displayed at the top of the screen during these moments to give you a real-time status of your probability of winning, or losing, the hand.
The achievements for the game are fairly straight forward. There are achievements tied to winning your first hand, your first tournament, and buying the first round of drinks. Additional achievements are tied to unlocking each character's bounty item which will also unlock a related avatar item for your use. The bounty achievements will probably be the ones that keep you coming back to the table for more witty banter and chip-splashing, as each of these require you to meet three bounty requirements before attempting to win the item. At minimum, this would require playing at least eleven tournaments, assuming you could complete all three requirements in one tournament and win the bounty item on your first attempt. The remaining achievements are tied to unlocking and using various themed chips, decks, and room decor at the same time, as well as unlocking all of the variants of each of these items.
Poker Night 2 succeeds at breaking the fourth-wall during the entire game. This game should be viewed more as a social simulation rather than a poker simulation. The entertainment experience is highly tied to the conversations and banter between your competitors. The poker, along with the adult-beverages, are simply used as a method to facilitate this process.
The reviewer spent over 7 hours splashing-chips, buying drinks, and unlocking 9 of 18 achievements. A review copy was provided in advance by the developer.