Imagine a round table. Around it sit a small robot with a God complex, a psychopath with an affinity for knives, a zombie hunter with a mechanical arm and a retired detective with a weird little sidekick; and they are all playing poker… with you. You mustn’t forget the malicious A.I. that oversees the game. This is Poker Night 2 by Telltale Games – a game that combines an intense poker game with beloved characters from well-known franchises. If you haven’t figured it out yet, here are the names of all the characters, respectively: Claptrap from Borderlands 2, Broke Samson from the TV series The Vanture Bros., Ash Williams from Army of Darkness and Sam from Sam and Max. And how can you forget GLaDOS?

The game is Poker. Everybody knows it, quite a few love it, and since there is no real money involved – losing isn’t as unpleasant (except from the insults your opponents will hurl at you). But to call Poker Night 2 “just a poker game” is an insult all by itself. Where else can you play against (and be repeatedly discouraged by) your favorite characters? Only here, at the place everyone loves to hang out in: The Inventory.

Before you start whining about not watching The Venture Bros. or something like that – it really isn’t a problem. You don’t have to know all the characters to find their lines and interactions funny and grow to love (or hate) them. It is better to be familiar with at least some of them, and to those who don’t know who GLaDOS is – go play the original Portal right now.

Apart from the high-stakes virtual gambling, Poker Night 2 can award players in several other ways. New skins and head for Borderlands 2 are available on all platforms, while other bonuses are exclusive to the one you’re playing on. The Steam version will grant you new content for Team Fortress 2; Xbox 360 gamers can earn new items for their avatars, while PS3 owners can unlock new themes for the console. All these awards are pretty neat (like the PS3 theme with Max skipping through portals) but not so easy to obtain.

So does one unlock all these crazy gifts? By winning. Well, not just winning, but completing three random objectives (like finishing in a certain place or taking all the Blinds). Only then will one of the characters bet you a specific personal item which will unlock a specific prize (if you win the hand, of course).

Poker, prizes, total and utter chaos… But even the more intense game of poker can become boring if everything stays the same. Here is where your Inventory Tokens come into play. They can change the theme of the chips, cards or table to match one of the five franchises in play. Once you have a complete set – wacky things can (and will) happen. You can also order drinks from Moxxi (Borderlands 2) to try and get your opponents drunk and gain the upper hand.

So what have we got? Virtual poker, hilarious (and crazy) characters, platform-exclusive unlockables, effective graphics and a mellow soundtrack that fits the game perfectly. Poker Night 2 is a great entry in its genre; you won’t see bullets flying everywhere (unless you antagonize GLaDOS) but it is a poker game after all, with emphasis on characters and funny interactions. Bottom line – great performance by an awesome game.


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