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World Championship Poker: Deluxe Series Package Art
GENRE
Card Game
DEVELOPER
Sensory Sweep Studios
PUBLISHER
Crave Entertainment
LOCAL WIRELESS
MULTI-PLAY
Yes
Wi-Fi/GLOBAL ONLINE
MULTI-PLAY
No
MICROPHONE
No
BUY NOW AT

World Championship Poker: Deluxe Series

The game of poker has really exploded in popularity over the past few years, thanks to a countless number of high-profile tournaments being broadcast on television. The availability of lavish poker sets and the rise of online gambling has convinced more and more people to learn the rules for themselves and begin playing at home, opening up a new market for video game developers. Nearly every major system has at least one poker title, and now that list includes the Nintendo DS. World Championship Poker: Deluxe Series offers players eleven variations of the classic card game, including video poker and, of course, the extremely popular Texas Hold 'Em. There's even blackjack and some additional mini-games (which must be unlocked) for those who get tired of non-stop poker action.

Players first create an individually personalized character, and must then work their way up the ranks from amateur to card shark. You do so by playing (and winning) the local tournaments, earning large pots of cash along the way. As you earn more cash, you'll be able to purchase additional outfits and talents from the casino's gift shop, enhancing both your appearance and your skills at the poker table. You'll eventually move on to better casinos, bigger tournaments, and harder opponents.

visuals

Your character freely roams around each casino, walking right up to the game you'd wish to join. Yes, the casinos are 3D environments shown on the top screen of the DS, with a map located on the bottom screen. This is essentially an extensive menu for selecting the poker game you want to play. It's entirely unnecessary, especially for a handheld game, and even more so for a poker title, but definitely appreciated. The amount of effort that was put into designing each casino really shows how dedicated the developers were to making World Championship Poker: Deluxe Series feel like something special. The environments are creative and laid out nicely, allowing players to explore, but not lose focus of the poker games that await.

Sadly, this same detail and extravagance was not applied to the actual poker games. The layout of information is horrible, making it difficult to keep pace when play starts moving quickly. Betting occurs on a screen separate from the main screen, meaning you cannot see all the vital facts when placing a bet. You have to hold down a shoulder button to see each player's total sum of cash. If you fold a hand, you don't get to see that hand play through. Little things like these add up, and ultimately make for a game that is hard to watch and even harder to play. It's disappointing. You'd think that a system with two screens and a touch screen would be ideal for playing poker, but this is just a mess, as if it weren't fully thought through.

Even more frustrating are the 3-D character models shown on the top screen. The computer players don't have tells. I could understand if this were the case against the harder, more experienced players you face later in the game, but the amateur players are just as difficult to read. When play comes around to each character, a short animation occurs. For example, an old man will reach for his oxygen tank. A redneck will spit some tobacco. A hustler flips a coin into the air. However, none of these animations are indicative of the player's cards. The "positive" tells often occurs just before a player folds, while the "negative" tells can result in a flush. It makes no sense. If you can't gain anything from seeing your opponents, why bother including them at all? That screen space could have been used in so many better ways.

audio

Not only can you see your opponents (for no reason at all), but you can hear them too! Once again, the audio clips are not tells, just sound to accompany the animations, so they are still pointless. However, I must admit, the quality of this audio is not bad. The words are easy to distinguish, and each sound like accurate stereotypes of their respective characters. In fact, it almost sounds like one person is responsible for all the voice work, as if a single comedian was performing a one-man stage show in different costumes. This actually matches the cartoonish look for the characters, though it's tiring to hear and watch the same noises and animations repeat so often, as each character only says two or three different things.

As for the rest of the audio, World Championship Poker: Deluxe Series allows players to customize the sound settings. There are many layers to the soundtrack, including the background music and background effects. Each is split up individually, letting you decide which combination will best help out your game. I like having this control, as most players will likely want to hear different parts of the gambling atmosphere, or maybe nothing at all.

gameplay

As if I haven't already touched upon enough gameplay flaws in the above sections, the quality of the touch screen controls is also lousy. The screen's sensitivity makes for frustrating play. You have to hold down each option for a little longer than you might expect before the game actually registers your selection. A quick tap is not enough. There is also a brief delay when using the touch screen to select options, one that is not present when using the standard face buttons. I've also found some bugs in the mapping of the touch screen. On several occasions, I've touched an option on the screen only to have nothing happen. Other times, I've touched blank areas of the screen and placed 0 bets on hands that I should have folded. My advice to those playing, use the buttons and not the touch screen, even if it is unfortunate to see a DS game that can't really take full advantage of the system's capabilities.

I also feel as though the computer players are cheating. (I know, that's the anthem for people who just aren't good at the game, but it's true.) Because they have no tells, and because the computer players will bet random amounts of money on any possible poker hand, nobody can ever accurately surmise what two cards each player might be holding. I have seen them raise the stakes with only a high card. I have seen them only call with a straight. I have also seen them match my "all in" bets almost every single time. To make it even more painful, the computer always has an amazing hand. Regular poker players know that you'll rarely see a flush or a straight or a full house, but the computer players have one almost every single time. It makes no logical sense.

And I have not even mentioned the worst part of World Championship Poker: Deluxe Series. If you've ever played a round of poker, then you understand that the mind game behind placing bets is arguably more important than the cards you actually hold. In World Championship Poker: Deluxe Series, all betting strategies have vanished. Gone. The computer players do not care about what bets you place. They will foolishly match any amount of money that you throw into the pot. It's ridiculous, and takes an important piece away from the game. Removing the betting strategies ruins the entire poker experience.

multiplayer

This is where the game makes up for its numerous weaknesses. For starters, World Championship Poker: Deluxe Series allows six players to compete head-to-head, all with a single card. Joining up with a bunch of friends (or strangers even) and holding your own poker tournament is a tremendous amount of fun and easy to coordinate.

The multiplayer option also eliminates some of the problems that arise from computer players. Betting strategies come back into the game. Your friends are not always holding awesome hands. Suddenly, the abominations that scarred single player mode have disappeared. The game feels more real again, and I couldn't be happier about this. World Championship Poker: Deluxe Series makes for an excellent multiplayer title.

However, there are still downsides. The in-game layout remains difficult to read. Players that are created and saved in Career Mode cannot be transferred over into the multiplayer mode of the game. Why purchase extras for your character if you can't share them with your buddies? A few small tweaks here and there could have made this game phenomenal, but World Championship Poker: Deluxe Series falls just short.

overall

My money is very important to me, so I must always compare each title to the possible alternatives. In terms of video game poker titles, this one is really no better or worse than others on other systems. Granted, it is currently the only option for DS owners, but like all poker titles thus far, it is filled with definite strengths and some disheartening weaknesses. World Championship Poker: Deluxe Series is getting a low score based largely on the fact that better options are currently available. Several better DS games are being sold in stores right now, as well as better games for other systems. There are smarter ways to spend $30 on video games.

Most importantly, why spend $30 on video game poker when you can buy a pack of cards for $1 or so, assuming you can't already find one laying around in a spare junk drawer. Nothing beats the feeling or overall gameplay value of the real thing. Or, if you really must have your poker in video game form, several online gambling sites offer free poker games for users to test out. These are both terrific and cheaper alternatives to this overpriced title, and must be seriously considered before making a purchase. Personally, I don't feel that what's offered in World Championship Poker: Deluxe Series is worth the price of admission.

final score 4.0/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Phil Stauskas
Staff Profile | Email
"Movies don't create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative."


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