Since we've already seen a host of Texas Hold'em games released on the WiiWare and DSiWare services, it would be quite easy to dismiss this fourth entry, Ante Up: Texas Hold'em, as just another attempt to cash in on the game's popularity. But even with the game's minimalistic visual approach, it's difficult not to be impressed with the playability and ease-of-use the game brings to the table, not to mention a fairly affordable price tag.
There are three basic modes of play in Ante Up: Texas Hold'em. Trial Mode is the meat of the package and the one most players will spend their time on as a single-player experience. In this mode you'll be able to enter various tournaments, at least if you have enough chips, and play your way through the ranks of the CPU-controlled opponents. If you're looking for a quick game, you can tackle the game's Free Mode where you can just jump into a quick game without going through the various tournament requirements.
Of course no Texas Hold'em game would be complete without a multiplayer feature and the DS Wireless Play mode can handle up to eight players with ease using the DSi system's wireless capabilities. It would have been nice to have a Download Play feature, but given the game's relatively low price tag, it shouldn't break the bank to have your friends or family purchase the title for themselves. Putting together a game requires little more than creating a game room for others to join in or jumping into one of the other player's rooms, so you won't have to swim through a barrage of menus and options to get into the game itself.
Controlling the game is a very intuitive affair thanks in part to the game's extremely well thought-out interface, with all the information you need organised perfectly on the top and bottom screens. You'll always know where you and the opponents stand in terms of chip count and the game will also display the best hand you currently hold. It even allows you to use the standard button controls or use the DSi touchscreen interface, depending on your personal tastes. So many card game developers try to do too much when putting together the controls and interfaces of their games, so it's nice to see a developer find a happy medium that really works.
The visual presentation might come off as rather bland and basic for some gamers looking for a bit more flash, but in many ways the less cluttered interface works wonders with keeping the important information always visible to you. The jazzy lounge music tracks are rather interesting the first time you hear each of them, but over time they can become a bit grating. Luckily you can turn the background music and sound effects down or even completely off if you so choose, a nice feature for those who plan to spend a lot of time playing the game.
Ante Up: Texas Hold'em forgoes a lot of flashy features and instead focuses more on giving gamers a smooth and playable poker experience that's as easy to play as it is fun. The layout and presentation gives you all of the information you'll need to be successful at the game and being able to bring together as many as eight players in total makes it the perfect game to enjoy with your friends and family. It might not be the flashiest of the Texas Hold'em releases, but it's hands down the best executed one of the bunch.