Poker Night at the Inventory
Welcome to The Inventory, poker club of choice for some of game culture’s funniest characters. So is it worth the buy-in?
Despite what the Irish government thinks I don’t like giving away my money. Mathematical autism notwithstanding, the main reason I’ve never learned how to play poker is because that usually involves buying into a game with my experiences friends. The only thing less appealing than that is downloading and Xbox Live Arcade poker game or spending any amount of time on PaddyPower.com. So to get me to buy into a poker game you have to do something special, and that’s what the creators behind Sam & Max and the recent Monkey Island Episodes are attempting to do.
The Inventory is a poker bar where some of game-culture’s most popular characters sit down and play single-game tournaments of Texas Hold’em. For a measly $10,000 you can buy in to a poker table with Sam the rabbit (from Sam & Max), Homestarrunner’s hilarious lucha libre StrongBad, the heavy from Team Fortress 2 and Penny Arcade’s very own “Tycho” Erasmus Brahe.
Make no mistake about it, this is a poker game. You play your cards, bluff, play the percentages or take wild risks, and a lot of the enjoyment comes from the simple to-and-fro of each round. The goal is to be the last man sitting at the table, winning the pot and unlocking new player, table and card skins as you do. What makes Poker Night at the Inventory such a joy to play is the dialogue between the four characters. Between rounds and as you play, your poker buddies will make jibes at each other, react to your plays and generally shoot-the-shit about stuff including women, website traffic and contract killing. Critical to the dialogue’s success is the way in which the chatter blends with the poker itself. Characters will talk as they play hands, only stopping to concentrate on the game at critical moments of the game, before returning to the conversation with an acknowledgment of the interruption.
The conversations are bloody hilarious too, and though eventually you’ll start re-hearing old stories and lines, the writing is so tight you’ll probably not care. You’ll find yourself in fits of laughter on a frequent basis. It’s a lot more stimulating than the in-game poker modes we’ve been inundated with this year.
Just one of the hundreds of hilarious moments at The Inventory
The bonus player models, table and card skins you unlock make give you some level of achievement, but the real prizes (at least for Team Fortress 2 owners) come in the form of four winnable items that the players randomly put up for collateral. These include a new skin for the heavy’s minigun and a pair of shades that make the demoman look like Kanye West.
With all of these great features it’s a shame you can’t share it with friends as bizarrely there is no online or offline multiplayer available. Poker fans might also find the lack of options and game modes frustrating and though each character has a “tell” that can be learned, the AI of the characters can get a little predictable. If you’re a poker player, this may not be the best environment to hone your skills.
For all the feature’s it’s missing, what’s included in the package is presented to the utmost polish. Poker Night at the Inventory is a steal at less than £4 through Steam or Telltale Games Store and for amateur players this is a fantastic way to learn the rules of poker and test your skills against four old friends. You may not play it for more than a week, but let it pass and you’ll be missing out one of the funniest games released this year.