Review: V.I.P. Casino: Blackjack (WiiWare)

Is success on the cards or is this game serving up a bum deal?

Is the gamble worth it? That is a valid question when looking at what this game has to offer for the 700 points you'll be paying for it. As you can tell from the title alone, the only game featured here is the well-known Blackjack, and in that respect it may seem a bit bare-bones. But as with most games, it all depends on what you expect to get out of it.

The setting couldn't be simpler: the whole game takes place within a VIP casino lounge with a dealer calling the shots, while you play with up to four AI characters or three friends. The goal is to rake in the most cash until you had your fill - or go bust. One problem this may present is that Blackjack technically has no end, especially when considering that your re-buy option can be used over and over again without any negative effect on the player.

Anyone familiar with the rules of Blackjack should have no problem figuring out the playing mechanics. Even those unfamiliar with the game should be able to pick it up quite easily. To this effect, the in-game rule guide can be quite helpful. Your goal for each play is to get a hand with a value as close as possible to 21 without going over. Face cards - kings, queens, and jacks - are worth 10 points, aces can be either 1 or 11 points, while all other cards are worth their numerical value.

How do you win a play? Beat the dealer with a higher hand or hope for the dealer to go bust (over 21.) Each play goes as follows: You place your wager, anywhere from $100 to $1000 in multiples of $50, from your initial $5,000 pot. Once the play starts you can get as many more cards as you want, one at a time, but as soon as you go over 21 you lose. Sometimes it's better not to push your luck, but keep in mind that the dealer must always play for a hand of 17 or higher. Other options are to stand and not take any more cards, double down to bet double the money and only receive one extra card, or split one hand into two, if you have a pair of cards, for the same play with the second hand also doubling your wager - you can lose with one hand while winning with the other and neither gain or lose money.

Winning a play will earn you your bet value. If you attain a Blackjack (an ace and a face card) right from the get-go you'll receive one-and-a-half times the amount you bet. If the dealer has a Blackjack all players who do not have a Blackjack will automatically lose. A hand equal in value to that of the dealer's is called a push in which you neither gain or lose money. Other AI players' hands will not affect your play as everyone is playing against the dealer only.

The control interface is quite simple. While you are given the option to make choices via IR pointer, it is much easier to make all your decisions via the Wiimote's d-pad which has all options mapped to it. One nice thing about the pointer, though, is that you can move it over all players' hands to get a clear close-up of their cards. Button 1 will take you to the menu, and the - and + buttons let you change the camera angle, of which the table overhead view is the most useful.

Concerning the presentation, the game sports a rather decent, clean look even if it is a bit no-frills. Then again, when was the last time you played a virtual card game for its visuals? The room contains sparse furnishings with an animated aquarium to one side. The character models are nice to look at and feature a small variety of animations. As for the sound, it's nothing to write home about. There's the obligatory casino background noise, expressions of disgust/joy from losing/winning players, and a few spoken dealer lines, which tend to get repetitive after a while. The game menu is fairly straightforward, letting you start a game, look at your achievements, review the rules, or have a gander at the credits.

While the game runs smoothly, most of the time, we have come across a certain glitch a few times. Sometimes after accessing the game menu, while playing, there won't be another play afterwards. The game is still running, but no hands will be dealt. A remedy for this hiccup is to quit the current game, which is automatically saved, and restart from the saved game. Another niggling issue is that as player one you're always stuck with the default 'Mr. Paradise' character. It seems kind of odd that the game won't let you choose from the five different characters, unless you're playing multiplayer. These factors don't really detract too much from the overall experience, but they're certainly note-worthy.

Conclusion

All in all, Blackjack is not a bad game, but it has only so much to offer. It would arguably have been better value at a price of 500 Wii points rather than 700. It may be a nice little time-filler, yet we can't see anyone playing this for hours at end. If you like virtual casino games this might be up your alley, but for those who don't we find it difficult to recommend - the lack of variety is a definite drawback.

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