This is one of those games that you’ve daydreamt about, but resigned yourself to the fact that it would never happen. This time, however, it actually has happened: Poker Night at the Inventory should not exist, but it does. It’s simple: you play Texas Hold ‘Em with four characters from different franchises: Max (from Sam & Max), Strong Bad (from Homestar Runner), The Heavy (from Team Fortress 2) and Tycho (from Penny Arcade).
Poker Night at the Inventory is an excuse to get an unrelated set of characters together to watch them interact in a social setting. At the heart of it, all you’re doing is playing poker on a PC, but while you’re doing that you get to listen in on conversations between characters that up until now have been reserved for shoddy fan-fiction. The banter thrown about during each hand of cards is what makes this a great poker game. Ever wonder what Strong Bad would say to Tycho after losing to him? Or what advice The Heavy would give to Max regarding his next weapons purchase? Poker Night at the Inventory provides insight into all of these unlikely setups, and allows characters to say things like, “It’s like spotting a solo lvl 5 on a PVP server and then rolling in on your flying mount, only to realize that he’s being escorted by a cadre of stealthed level 80 rogues. Am-I-right?” when they win a hand.
There are different conversation sets to choose from in the option menu (“Chewin’ the Fat”, “Idle chit chat” etc) presumably so that you’re not subjected to the same conversation loops over and over. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work as you’ll hear repeat sentences and discussions at least a few times during tournaments. As players are eliminated they leave the table. Ideally you want to be left at the table with a character you find amusing because one-on-one stalemates become tedious very quickly if you have to listen to the same one-liners for ages. I was stuck playing Tycho for about half an hour and during that time my opinion that he is a colossal douche bag of a character was firmly cemented. Strong Bad, however, amuses me to no end so the converse applies.
Winning tournaments allows you to unlock new decks of cards and themed card tables. On top of these unlocks, on occasion each of the four characters will offer up an item as collateral instead of buying into the tournament. If you are able to knock that character out, you’ll unlock that item to use in Team Fortress 2. Quite a neat little cross-over if you ask me.
Poker Night at the Inventory is a poker game that has been made for geeks and gamers whether you know how to play poker or not. For those who have no clue, the game offers a very easy to follow tutorial as well as a list of winning hands that’s always available for a peek. There are dozens of allusions to all sorts of videogames, underhanded quips aimed at the second-hand games market: Magic the Gathering, Pokemon references and Star Wars quotes. This really is a geek’s wet dream insofar as poker games go, and for only $4.95 (less than R40) there really is no reason not to give it a try. The download isn’t that big either; only 240MB.
Hopefully this is the first of many poker games with character cross-overs. I’d love to see one with Murray the Evil Demonic Skull, Kratos, Nathan Drake and Marcus Fenix, but I think that one will remain a daydream.