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Battle Poker - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Battle Poker

WiiWare | Left Field Productions | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America) | 800 Wii Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (Pointer)
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Review
20th August 2009; By KnucklesSonic8

When it was first announced that the creators of Excitebike 64 and Nitrobike would be spear-heading a project on WiiWare back when the service was first announced, this aroused some interest. Left Field Productions took it upon themselves to design a unique, fun, multiplayer-focused poker game for the service as a means of testing the waters. Given that the idea sprung from one of their earlier poker games, will Battle Poker be able to stand out as more than just an average poker game? The answer is both yes, and no.

    Battle Poker is a rather unique game and for that, Left Field Productions deserves some applause. The type of gameplay you would come to expect in a "normal" poker game isn't exactly what's put before you here so those going into the game expecting a normal poker experience will be sorely disappointed. Battle Poker has a series of modes all with varying puzzle aspects to them but all consist of a similar premise of creating the best hands possible for maximum amount of points. 

    The game allows you to create your very own profile but since you can't really track records or statistics, it could've been a bit more useful. After choosing your profile, you have two options on the Main Menu: Single-Player or Multiplayer with a total of 5 different modes to choose from between the two. The single-player component consists of two modes: 'Shuffle and Deal With It' and 'Chain Reaction' whereas the multiplayer mode consists of three modes that can be played with 2-4 players: 'Classic', 'Wait Your Turn' and 'Mad Dash'. Each mode has a variety of options that can be toggled such as the background skin, the amount of time on the timer, the type of scoring and more. Let's take a look at each mode individually.

    'Shuffle and Deal With It' has players re-arranging cards to create the best hand possible. The game takes place on a 5x5 grid with 25 cards on the board and scoring evaluations on the side. Each column and row is considered to be a hand so the game tasks you with creating the best hand possible across the entire grid. On the site you have the evaluations that tell you what kind of hand you have in each column and row. These are all visual representations of poker hands such as having a Royal Flush represented with a Crown. On the left-hand side of the grid, you have your current score, the score your aiming to beat as well as the timer. The score you're aiming to beat gives you something to strive for but these scores prove to be too high and may turn off many especially if they don't find the mode particularly appealing. The game does a good job at creating a decent puzzle out of the traditional concept of creating the best poker hand you can but when it comes down to it, some may not find the mode very fun at all even despite how unique it is, especially given that there's no way to keep track of your best records.

    'Chain Reaction', thankfully, is more enjoyable when compared with the other single-player mode. In this mode, you have a similar 5x5 grid except this time the objective is different. You need to create as many hands as possible given what's on the board. You aren't allowed to re-arrange cards like in the first mode so everything's in place. The objective is to create poker hands by highlighting up to 5 cards in a horizontal or vertical fashion. Each hand you create will award you with a different amount of points: a single pair being the lowest and Royal Flush being the highest. This mode actually pits you against a computer to see who can get the most points on the board. However, while the computer's AI is fairly balanced, the game will show you whenever the CPU creates a hand so in reality, you could just copy what the CPU does. It would've been a lot better if it didn't show you the hands the CPU made as it would make the game more challenging for the player to create poker hands on their own. Since this is not the case, it makes the game a little on the easy side and any sort of fun that would otherwise be derived from being challenged is rather moderate.


    The multiplayer modes themselves are essentially 3 variations of the same game or objective. The idea here is simply to create the best 5-card hand in the alotted time frame. The varying modes don't differentiate gameplay by too much. In 'Classic' Mode, players place cursors over hidden cards to flip them over and choose whether or not to add them to their hand. The player with the strongest hand by the time everyone has 5 cards or when the timer runs out (whichever comes first) will win the match. Additionally, there are random items that will float across the screen at times and these can be used with the B Button. Once in your collection, you can activate them by clicking on them and it will produce the desired effect depending on the power-up. For example, the Snow Flake will freeze opponents in place for a couple seconds, the Bomb will destroy a card from the grid, and so on. The items are a welcome addition as they make the game a little more interesting by making it more competitive but if you don't find the mode particularly very fun, then the items probably won't change your mind. 

    The other two modes are simply variations of the 'Classic' Mode with one or two changes. Wait Your Turn simply has players going one at a time and 'Mad Dash' gives players only a couple seconds to create a hand, making it more of a race. It would've been great if the multiplayer modes were a bit more diverse or even if the 'Chain Reaction' Mode found within the single-player component could be played with multiple players. As it is, though, the multiplayer is a bit of a let-down in that respect and while it may be fun for a couple tries, don't expect to be returning frequently to it.

    That's pretty much all there is to say about Battle Poker. It's commendable that the developers did something a little more unique than simply just a traditional poker game, sadly, the end result turns out to be a game that provides little fun and ultimately, won't hold your interest for very long. In the end, the single-player modes have a big mix in difficulty, and the multiplayer modes don't have much variety. While the game is intended for a multiplayer experience, it's likely that it won't prove to be worth much of your time after a couple plays. We're glad that the game didn't turn out to be 1,000 Points because that price would have been completely unreasonable given what's offered here. Despite its unique gameplay, Battle Poker is really hard to recommend and, ultimately, not worth the asking price. Although Battle Poker is disappointing as a whole, we certainly hope to see more of Left Field in the future as it seems like they have some unique ideas they could bring to the service.


18/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 6/10  - Unique spin on classic Poker, controls are extremely easy for anyone to follow, puzzle elements had potential but aren't pursued further
Presentation 8/10 - Polished, simple backgrounds, a bit of variety in the card sets, audio is decent, female announcer is a nice touch
Enjoyment 2/5 - Can be fun and challenging for the first couple times, won't hold your attention for very long, multiplayer modes could've been more diverse
Extra Content 2/5 -  Additional backgrounds and a series of options to choose from, very little in the form of replay value with no stat tracking

Equivalent to a score of 60% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Battle Poker
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