Here’s a reviewing conundrum: how does one approach a game that is determinedly designed to be average? This is the case with Plain Video Poker, which does away with pretence by using an adjective in its title that’s been reserved more often for yogurt and M&M’s than anything within the hyperbolic games industry. What this game promises, from its very own description page on Nintendo’s website, is a “no gimmicks, no-frills” experience.
Video poker itself is a relatively simple one-player game that feels like the Vegas lovechild of draw poker and a slot machine. After inserting money and placing a bet, a player receives five cards on the video screen. They are free to choose which of these cards to discard and replace, with the object of hopefully making one of the various poker hands on a list that results in a payout. These machines aren't extremely common in the wild, but often take up residence in casinos, truck stops and sometimes convenience stores.
Plain Video Poker mirrors what is found with many video poker machines, which happens to be a not very aesthetically exciting layout. It has a solid blue background that will make you wonder if your 3DS has suddenly become Windows 3.1, but this is what is found in the majority of video poker. The cards look very basic, ignoring concepts like Space Marine Kings or Anime Queens in favour of easy readability. This, too, is video poker’s bag. There is no music aside from a trilling piano when receiving a payout, but walk up to any video poker machine and odds are you'll be greeted with a similar level of audio presentation.
The play options available within Plain Video Poker actually seem pretty substantial. A dozen different styles of the game are available, which offer variations in which hands pay and what cards may count as wild. Up to a 5x bet may be placed on any go, and the size of an individual bet can be adjusted from 25 cents all the way up to $10,000. A player starts with $100, and if that ever runs out the game will just whip out another $100 to feed the games, no questions asked.
Everything is controlled by the stylus and works perfectly well, although when the primary function is tapping cards, you hope the technology has been mastered. Snarkiness aside, everything operates in a fast, snappy manner. It might even play a little too fast sometimes, as cards will automatically be listed as held if a winning hand is produced on the first deal. This feels a bit disappointing, since it would be nice to find these by one’s self, but the game does not lock the player into making this choice. They can ditch these cards if they want.
Stats for each game type show how many times a certain hand has been hit during play and its percentage. Stats can be reset whenever the player wishes to start anew and… that seems about it.
Plain Video Poker can best be described as a game that knows its intended audience. It’s easy to balk at its lack of bells and whistles; and the people who do have every right to feel that there could have been at least a few aesthetic customization options. But those who live and die on playing video poker just want to keep plugging away at their virtually generated hands without distractions bogging them down, and here they will find a faithful and relatively cheap recreation of many video poker games, for better or worse. So when a game sets out to be average and hits its mark, what other score could it reasonably receive?