It’s no lie that video game conversions of popular poker card games are few and far between nowadays as online poker has become increasingly more popular and widely regarded. WiiWare developer Digital Leisure has decided to try its luck with an adaption of arguably the most popular variation of poker, Texas Hold’em, but how does the title fare when the cards are dealt?
As you’d probably expect, playing Texas Hold’em Tournament is a fairly simple affair, providing you know the rules of the poker game it’s based on. Of course if you aren’t familiar with the game, the developer has wisely included a tutorial to teach the general rules. Basically, the primary objective for players taking part in a game of Texas Hold’em is to achieve the top ‘hand’ – best cards out of the available seven in this case – out of all the players at the table. After one card has been dealt to each player, determining the ‘dealer’ (the person who distributes cards to other players), the first two cards are dealt accordingly which are only shown to the player they’re given to. Following this deal, bets are made by each player with the option to ‘raise’ the bet to a higher amount, ‘call’, which means the player matches the current bet amount, or ‘fold’, which is said by the player when he/she wants to forfeit their hand. Next, a succession of five cards is shown to everyone; face-up on the table. The player with the best hand wins the round and the ‘pot’ – the collection of money gathered from bets – after all cards are dealt and shown. In a nutshell, that’s Texas Hold’em poker.
There are of course other intricacies to the game of Texas Hold’em but it’s probably better that you find those out for yourself! For complete newcomers to the game it can be difficult to grasp at first but the in-game tutorial should at least give you a rough guide as to how it’s played. All of this adds up to a fun game of Texas Hold’em and for enthusiasts of the game the gameplay can become quite addictive.
The control scheme employed by the game couldn’t be simpler, and although it works, there’s a sense that more could have been done to make Texas Hold’em Tournament stand out. A combination of the Wii remote’s IR pointer and A button is utilised to make every selection while playing, from navigating the menus to tweaking various options and also making all decisions in-game. Other than that there’s very little to mention in terms of controlling the game, apart from being able to point the cursor at other players to see their current balance and the ability to choose an emotion that your player can act out at any time in a game, reminiscent of a ‘poker face’. Overall the controls work as they should, however basic and predictable they actually are.
Included in the game are three different gameplay modes. The first is exclusively for single player-play and holds five different tournaments; the main meat and bones of the mode. Each tournament takes place in a new location with increasingly higher funds needed to participate in each subsequent tourney. The fundamental problem with this is that, although there are six tournaments, each is very short and quickly becomes repetitive. Additionally, within this mode is a ‘Free Play’ game type which simply allows a casual match of poker to be played. A nice addition to Texas Hold’em Tournament is an online mode, which allows six players to take part in the same aforementioned tournaments and the Free Play mode can also be undertaken online. Playing games over Nintendo Wi-Fi does is fairly entertaining, although without voice chat or any means of communication it does feel pretty limited. Finally, the previously mentioned Tutorial game mode simply teaches you the basics through playing a round and should be the first stop for newbies.
Extra features/additions are scarce. Mii support in the form of choosing one of your own creations to be the character you play as has been incorporated into the game, but unfortunately even the humour of seeing Darth Vader play a game of poker doesn’t quite make up for having to behold your generic-looking and soulless opponents when playing a long game. Your Mii’s attire can be customised to a limited extent which ultimately is a very small addition to the options in the single player and online modes.
In terms of presentation, Texas Hold’em Tournament plays it very close to the cards (sorry, please don’t hurt me) and its combination of graphics and sound is very limited. Visually, it’s extremely basic and unimpressive looking, with very little variation in appearance. The sound tracks are equally as bland and consist of upbeat but repetitive tunes that soon becoming irritating to have to bear. These two lacking components of the game amount to each poker match lacking in atmosphere with the stages for Texas Hold’em games proving to be just as dull.
Texas Hold’em Tournament plays a good game of poker and is quite entertaining, but at the end of the day it’s a safe conversion of the card game without adding much, if any, innovation where it is perhaps much needed. The online multiplayer is a nice inclusion but when all is weighed up it just isn’t different enough from playing against the dull AI characters to be worth much in the long run. While at 500 Wii points the asking price is low, so is the level of value you’re likely to get from Digital Leisure’s newest game. If you're a fan of the card game there's definitely fun to be had here, but for everyone else it's tough to recommend buying in to this title.