Game Review: 'Poker Night 2'

Featuring stars from the worlds of TV, film, comics and video games, Telltale Games' "Poker Night 2" is another bizarre melting pot of celebrity guests and smack-talking Texas Hold 'Em. It's funny and silly, but a large portion of your enjoyment is going to rest on how much you enjoy the crossover characters.

This time, you are joined at the table by Brock (from Adult Swim's "The Venture Bros."); Ash (from the "Evil Dead" movies); Claptrap (the robot from "Borderlands"); Sam (of the animal police duo "Sam and Max"); and GLaDOS (the acerbic AI from "Portal"). If most of those names mean something to you, congratulations, you're in "Poker Night 2's" target audience. With the notable exception of Ash, each character is fully voiced by the associated voice actors (I guess Bruce Campbell was not available). The combination of official voice work and a brilliant, snappy script makes for hours of enjoyable table patter.

Brock and Sam swap war stories. GLaDOS insults all the nonrobotic characters. The polite chatter and lengthy anecdotes create a natural, casual atmosphere. The game is smart enough to have the conversation ebb and flow across the game, so if a dramatic river card interrupts Ash's story about proposing to his girlfriend, he will pick it up again when the action slows down. Yes, if you play and play and play, you're bound to hear some clips multiple times, but most casual poker players will be surprised with the depth of table talk.

"Poker Night 2" is built for those casual players, as the quality of the computer-controlled Texas Hold 'Em is not fantastic. There's a system to induce the cast to develop tells _ at the cost of buying them drinks _ but it's too expensive to seriously consider. This leaves you with a lot of random-seeming poker with no actual metagame of predicting opponent patterns. There's no multiplayer either, so you're playing poker with just the cartoon characters and not actual people who might be more methodical and logical with their plays.

You have to ask yourself, how hilarious will it be to have the foul-mouthed murder machine from "The Venture Bros." sit beside the chirpy, eager robot from "Borderlands"? If you're a pre-sold fan, you'll dig the mashup. If not, then this is just mouthy, mediocre poker.

The PlayStation version of "Poker Night 2" has some audio and video issues where characters will briefly freeze or the sound will skip. You might be better off investing in one of the other versions, either Xbox 360, PC or iOS. Each version of the game has platform-specific unlocks, where you can win backgrounds for your PS3 or costumes for "Team Fortress 2" on Steam, for example. The game is also considerably less expensive on PC and iOS.

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POKER NIGHT 2

Platform: Sony PlayStation 3

Rated: M

Price: $9.99

Released: April

Verdict: You should try this game

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