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-


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