Sunday, January 22, 2006


Review - Texas Hold 'Em Poker DS

This will be a "mini-review" of the Nintendo DS game, Texas Hold 'Em Poker DS. This is a poker game, obviously. The game has a bunch of different flavors of poker, not just Texas Hold 'Em. The game also will play Omaha and Tahoe Hold 'Em, which are basically the same as Texas version except you get four and three face-down cards respectively from which to choose 2 to combine with the table cards to make your hand. The game also has 5-card stud, 5-card draw, and 7-card stud. The game has several variations of limit-play and no-limit.

Game play is moderately fast if you turn off "tells". If you turn on tells, then you have to wait while the game shows you a little "video" of each player deciding what they want to do when it's their turn to make a bet, since they might cross their arm or lift their hat or some such. Not only that, but on your own turn you have to decide what "tell" to do, or pick "none", so that's one more click you have to do each turn. So I quickly turned off tells, since they didn't add anything to the gameplay and just slowed down the game.

Graphics for this game are about what you would expect for a card game. That is, not very great but serviceable. They get the job done. Sound is about the same, they have a fairly annoying announcer that will announce in the bigger tournaments, but most of the game is pretty quiet except for some background casino noise in a few of the settings. You could just turn off the sound and listen to an iPod or stereo instead.

Texas Hold 'Em Poker DS supports local multiplayer via wi-fi, but not internet play, which is a sorely missed opportunity. After playing Mario Kart DS online, I'm spoiled, I want to be able to play all my DS games online like that now. And the worse news is that the local wi-fi multiplayer only works if every player has a copy of the game, which is to say, most likely very rarely. I sure hope that someone releases a poker game for the DS that will support this and some other missing features I will go into in a bit.

There are two critical flaws in Texas Hold 'Em Poker DS. The first flaw is that you can not just save the state of a tournament at any time. You must finish the tournament and it only saves which tournament you're on and your winnings so far if you're doing career mode. For the quick-game mode, you can't save at all. Now this, is a major flaw, because a tournament of poker can take quite a while to finish, sometimes over an hour. That's just too long for a mobile game to go without saving. If this game supported saving at any time, like it should, it would be a lot more playable.

The second critical flaw of the game is that your AI opponents are abso-freakin'-lutely brain dead poker players. They must have been programmed with AS instead, Artificial Stupidity. I'm playing 5-card stud, which is one card face down and then each player gets dealt up to 4 cards face up, with a round of bets between each deal. I got a pair of kings showing, which is the best hand visible on the table, and the last cards have been dealt, and so I raise the bet by a significant amount. What do two of the AI players do? They CALL! They should know that there is no way possible for them to win the hand so they call? That's insane. And sometimes the AI will wildly bet All-in when they got nothing better than a high face card, not even a pair. It's whacko.

Unfortunately since I'm unable to go to the internet to find competent opponents, the AI is pretty much a deal-killer for this game. Sure, it's okay fun for a little while, but it's not nearly challenging enough to challenge even a novice poker player like myself, and so there's really not a lot of replay value here. Because of this flaw and the missing save feature, I have to rate this game poorly. The good news is, there's still room in the DS market for a good poker game that supports wi-fi internet play. Don't waste your money on this one. D-


Friday, January 20, 2006


Nintendo DS Wi-Fi Owns

Ok, I have now had a chance to get my Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Dongle working and played some Mario Kart DS online. This is totally sweet, I hope most games coming out for the DS from now on will support this, it rocks!!

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Nintendo DS Owns

I remember when the Nintendo DS was first announced, and I thought how stupid a portable with two screens would be. Boy, I can't tell you how wrong I was. I've only had my DS since Christmas, but I'm already spending an average of 2-3 hours per day playing it. I've already got a little library of titles for it, about 6 games or so. Not to mention that it plays GBA games too, which I have maybe 8 or 9. Here's some micro-reviews of the games I've played so far:

1. Mario Kart DS - just got my wi-fi usb thingy and have not yet played online, but this game even in single player is a blast, one of the most fun racing titles I've played on any platform. what's also great besides straight racing is that it's got missions where you have to do certain goals, and also a battle mode where the object is to take out the other racers. A+

2. Meteos - great tetris-similar puzzle game, what's so great about it is using the stylus to manipulate the blocks, it's so intuitive and fast! really the only thing lacking in this one is wi-fi internet play (you can multi-play with nearby DS's but not over the internet). A

3. Pac-Pix - another cool use of the touch-screen, in this game you draw little pac-man's and watch them gobble up ghosts, it's kind of hard to describe but it's seriously fun. this game is pretty difficult, though, and if you die, you have to restart a whole chapter (each chapter is about 5 or 6 levels). B+

4. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney - Very cool courtroom drama adventure. You play the role of Phoenix Wright, a fledgling lawyer, and your very first case is to defend one of your friends for murder charges. Of course, you manage to not only defend your client but catch the killer too, just like old Matlock. Touch screen support is there but isn't really mandatory. Mostly what's great about this game is the story. A+

5. Mario 64 DS - I haven't spent much time on this one yet. Controls are not very intuitive, really, and seem sluggish compared to what I remember of the Nintendo 64 version. I am too early in the game to grade this one yet.

6. Nintendogs - I haven't spent much time on this one either. Graphics are very nice, and the gimmick of petting the dogs with the touch screen is neat, but I don't know enough about the gameplay to know if this game is actually fun or not. No grade yet.

I also picked up the new Castlevania GBA dual-game cart, that has both Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow on it. So far I'm not that far into either of these yet but the gameplay is tight, I just need to figure out how to do some of the moves and how to make better use of the power-ups and items. Endless respawning of some of the monsters is slightly irritating but I can see why they do it for this game. No score yet.

Oh yah, I got a "game" for the DS called Electroplankton, which is pretty goofy-weird. It's not really a game, it's more of a toy/instrument. You manipulate various kinds of "plankton" on screen to produce electronic music. I've only spent an hour or two messing around with it, it's neat but I don't know as I'd recommend it to anyone unless you just really like unusual things.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Guild Wars Free Weekend

On the weekend of January 20th there will be a Guild Wars: Factions Global Free-For-All PvP Weekend Event! This event will take place on the Battle Isles, the new PvP continent.

Your Key to PvP*
American Players: 888D9-H27PG-NM72D-PLHJ1-2HG11
European Players: 66DG9-C4RHB-9FKD6-287BJ-LRGCJ

*If you are an existing Guild Wars player, you do not need to acquire an access key for your Guild Wars account; you will automatically receive access to all Global Free-For-All PvP Weekend content when the event begins.

To download the Guild Wars client go here:

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Simple Controllers

I can't believe this is real. Please click the link, to witness the "next gen" console game controller. Apparently this is not a sick joke. And what is scarier than the article itself is reading the comments and finding some of them are positive!

Friday, January 06, 2006


Earth 2160 Reviewed

GameChronicles has posted my review of the PC real time strategy title, Earth 2160. Overall, if you are an expert in the genre you will probably like the depth this title offers, but newcomers should look elsewhere, as the AI is killer, and other aspects make the game very difficult with a steep learning curve. It looks great, though. I scored it 7.2 out of 10.


F.E.A.R. Reviewed

I should have mentioned this earlier, but GameChronicles has posted my review of the PC first person shooter, F.E.A.R. I give it 8.8 out of 10. In a nutshell, if you have a medium or high end gaming machine, you definitely need to check this one out. The AI is superb, and really gives the single player experience more realistic gun battles. You can get it at Amazon pretty cheap.



There is a new wiki site that is for user-created game strategy guides, called appropriately enough, StrategyWiki. So far there is not a lot of content for it yet. It's not that easy to navigate yet, but they plan to add some functionality there. This could be a really great site if it takes off, since it would give anyone the freedom to add to the guides any tips they have for beating a game. A tip, the Works In Progress page is a good way to see what articles are in development there.

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