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Texas Hold 'em Tournament - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Texas Hold'em Tournament

WiiWare | Digital Leisure | 1 Player / 2-6 Players (online versus) | 
Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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4th August 2009; By KnucklesSonic8

Lately, it seems like wherever you turn there's a poker game right around the corner. Doesn't matter what console you're playing on, it's clear that if you love poker, you have a lot to choose from! Digital Leisure has decidedly jumped on the bandwagon to deliver Texas Hold'em Tournament, the very first such game on the WiiWare service. The question is, does Digital Leisure succeed at what it brings to the table?

    The game pits players against up to 5 other human and/or computer-controlled opponents in both standard and tournament-style gameplay. For those who aren't familiar with how to play Texas Hold'em, the game is simple at heart but by no means "easy" to master. Since the card game itself consists of many techniques, we won't get into too much detail with the rules in this review, but thankfully, Digital Leisure has included a modest interactive tutorial in the game to help those who don't know the rules. Rest assured, though, the tutorial won't teach you absolutely everything there is to know about the game but as you play along, you'll definitely start picking up tricks and learning techniques that you can use on your own.

The game has a modest selection of modes to choose from. The single-player component consists of a Free Play mode where you can play a simple round of Texas Hold'em with up to 4 other players. As well as this, there's also a Tournament mode where you can buy-in using the money you've accumulated and compete against 4 CPU's in one of the tournament venues, in hopes of coming out on top. When you begin a new file, you select the Mii you could like to represent you in the game (or use one of the in-game characters) and you start out with $1000. By winning tournaments against CPU's, you can accumulate money which can in turn be used to purchase different costumes and accessories.

    What's interesting is that the game tracks your online/offline progress separately so the money you accumulate offline has no bearing on how much money you accumulate online. Additionally, costume purchases are dealt with separately as well and this just further adds to the replay value and the challenging gameplay. If you do run out of money, there's a Borrow Money option where you'll be loaned $1000 but this will cause you to lose all of the costumes you've unlocked so far. Gamers who are into this sort of a game should be satisfied with the game's simplistic approach however others may see the tournaments with a "played one, played 'em all" kind of attitude due to their repetitive nature.

Playing the game itself couldn't be any easier. You control using the Wii Remote's IR pointer to select what you would like to do on your turn simply by pressing the A Button. It's great to see that the simplistic nature of the game extends to how the game is played and controlled and it certainly makes the experience that much more enjoyable for beginners. During play, there's a status bar at the very bottom of the screen that informs you of what's going on in the game. There's even an option where you can choose an emotion for your Mii to express: anger, sadness, joy, laughter -- it's all there and it makes the game a bit more interesting.

    When the yellow spotlight flashes on you and it's actually your turn, you have the ability to Call, Raise, Fold and even chip in all of your chips if you're feeling really confident by selecting 'All In'. When you would like to Raise the amount of money that goes into the pot, a box comes up that let's you add in the value you would like to input by using chips of $25, $100, and $1,000 increments. In case you make a mistake, you have the ability to go back and change your mind. It would've been great if the developers allowed you to do this when choosing the other options, in particular the options that fall on both ends of the spectrum -- Fold and All In. It's quite likely that on more than one occasion, the player will "accidentally" choose an option they weren't intending on choosing and the results can be rather frustrating. What could've helped prevent this would've been to have a confirmation box so players have the option to confirm or decline that this is what they really want to do. 

    When it's not your turn, though, this is where more of the game's flaws creep in. For starters, the computer opponents aren't always particularly smart and at times they're downright predictable. Many of the computers will fold on the first turn of the round and especially when you're nearing the end of a round, it becomes apparent that sometimes the computers don't put up more of a fight. Your opponents can be a tad slow as well which is why it's recommended that you head into the game's options and increase the speed of the computer opponents just to make the game flow a little better instead of having to wait so much. 

You'll find that most of your time is spent waiting on your opponents and so it shouldn't be much of a surprise that actually waiting for them to end their turn isn't very exciting and the game's rather bland presentation doesn't help at all. While you're playing, you're greeted to some strange-looking characters who sit at a table in a generic casino environment where very little movement goes on behind the scenes (or even at the table for that matter). It's all just so simple and while it may get the job done for some, most will find it rather disinteresting. Further on the game's presentation, the "music" you're entertained with is simply a looping track of casino machine noises, indistinct background voices and other sound effects that you would expect. It would've been a lot better if the developers actually tried to add in some real music tracks to make the game more interesting because as it is, hearing the same background effects each and every time you play takes away from the experience and some may grow tired of it rather quickly.

    Thankfully, the gameplay stands up amidst the game's rather simplistic approach and if that's all that matters to you, then you have little to worry about! The game works especially well because of the addition of online play and Digital Leisure is to be commended for employing the use of this service! Without online play, the game probably wouldn't have been as enjoyable to come back to on multiple occasions. What's great about the game too is that you don't have to spend half-an-hour just to start a game with someone around the world and this is probably because of how many sales the game has received. Players are able to build up their status online by the amount of money they accumulate and as previously mentioned, the money you earn online is separate from the money you make offline, giving players something to strive for as they play online. Not only are you able to face friends and strangers in random matches but you can even face other poker rivals in tournaments as well. 

Wi-Fi integration works pretty well for what it is but there is definitely room for improvement. Most of the flaws of the game's offline component extend here as well except they're that much more of an annoyance. Accidentally clicking Fold or All In is that much more frustrating online than it is offline. Added to this, the game has a 30 second timer for each player on their turn and some opponents take way too long just to decide to Fold. Although it's great that the developers allowed the player enough time to select what they wanted to do on their turn, the game just doesn't flow as well when you have to wait so much. It would've been better if the timer was reduced, perhaps to 15 or even 20 seconds. Even despite these little nitpicks, the game is still enjoyable to play online and ultimately, it's what adds replay value to the game.

    It's very easy to take one look at Texas Hold'em Tournament and write it off for its simplistic presentation but the fact of the matter is, the game offers great value for a measly 500 Points. Sure Digital Leisure could've done a bit better in certain areas but what you have here is a solid, poker game with online play to boot. Despite the lack of any sort of creativity on the part of the developers, the game is a decent translation of the popular card game and fans of the game should be pleased with what's on offer here. While some may find themselves disappointed with the simplicity, others who give this game a look will be pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable it can be, especially when playing online. We also recommend the game to those who enjoyed playing Texas Hold'em in Clubhouse Games on the DS. We doubt that this will be the last time a poker game hits the WiiWare service but for now, Texas Hold'em Tournament is great value at such a budget price.

20/30 - Okay/Average

Gameplay 7/10  - Game progression flows rather nicely save for a few hiccups in the mechanics; easy-to-use controls
Presentation 6/10 - Notably lacking in the graphics department, plain music; menu layouts get the job done
Enjoyment 4/5 - Those who enjoy games of this genre will especially enjoy online play; some may come away unimpressed
Extra Content 3/5 - Unlockable costumes, beating tournaments and online play will satisfy most; commendation due for Mii support

Equivalent to a score of 67% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Texas Hold'em Tournament
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Review by KnucklesSonic8

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