Genre: Card game
Publisher: Crave Entertainment
Developer: Crave Entertainment
Release Date: November 18, 2004
Buy 'WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POKER': GBA
Poker has had a fairly sudden and unpredictable upsurge in popularity; this unforeseeable phenomenon can be witnessed easily through the various hour-long television specials ranging from amateur poker night to the celebrity poker spectaculars. It is also fairly evident online, as the number of poker-related programs and systems grow. With the sudden growth, it is not hard to imagine why we are suddenly seeing poker games on various gaming platforms, from online enabled next generation titles to the GBA title that's being reviewed. The things are popping up like wildfire.
Today the focus is going to be centered on World Championship Poker for the GBA, brought to us by Crave Entertainment at an easily affordable price of $19.99. The name is not perfectly accurate, as the cartridges carries far more than just four different types of poker, but also blackjack and slot machines. Consider it a cheap exceptionally lightweight casino in your pocket, only without the drinks and cigarette smoke.
The games themselves are hard to criticize, as they are consistent with their real- life counterparts. The card draws seem to be random enough and follow the rules of the games they are imitating. The worst thing that can be said is that the AI might be a touch on the easy side, making it a little bit too simple to strip them of every penny they have. Even with only minor experience in card games prior to this title, within an hour, I had finished the world championship and walked away with the big prize. I wish it were so easy in real life; I walked in with a few grand and walked out with a fortune just a couple hours later.
There are a couple things that any real fan of poker should keep in mind when looking at this or just about any other digital recreation: this does not recreate the psychological facets of the game, only the statistical facets. World Championship Poker, at the very least, does not simulate bluffing or tell reading or just about anything else that helps define the best poker players from any old math major. What this title does manage to do is provide a person with the ability to play the games they love without a deck of cards and without anyone to play against. Considering that the package is complete with Five card, Seven card, Texas Hold 'em, Omaha Hold 'em and even video poker, any fiend of the game should be able to get their fix.
You can create some of the psychological facets of poker by playing against a friend via the networking cable, so long as both you and your friend own a copy of the game and a GBA. You can start a multiplayer game with up to four players, requiring, of course, four copies of the game and four GBA units. While I wish they would have offered a way to pass the GBA between friends in order to play a one-on-one game with only one copy and one GBA, I think that the networking multiplayer is, at the very least, a useful idea.
There are two single player options, the first being quick play, which is just a fast-starting, essentially meaningless game of Texas Hold 'em. The other option is career mode, where the player gets to start out his/her career in gambling. This places them directly into a casino with a pocket full of cash and a goal to have a couple of pockets full by the end. There really is no story or plot behind it, just lots and lots of gambling. In order to enhance the player's ability (or more importantly, help them out in case they aren't so great at gambling), they can take out a loan from a local loan shark. As the player progresses in ability, they can advance to some of the loftier casinos and even progress through some of the more difficult poker tournaments. Assuming they manage to win the world championship, they have essentially completed their goal in career mode yet can continue to gamble away in order to increase their wealth. Unfortunately, the lack of a story makes this a little less rewarding than it could be. I suppose if making mythical numbers rise in a game is exceptionally pleasurable to you, then it might be very rewarding. My biggest gripe about the career mode has to be the lack of a save function, which means you get to carry around a piece of paper with your passwords on it.
Thanks in no small part to the fact that poker is a fairly simple game in practice, the controls are relatively easy to learn and manipulate. There is a single menu, and it lists the various choices a poker player has to make at any given time. The same goes for the other games as well, and anyone who has played any of them before should have absolutely no problems. There is even a fairly comprehensive tutorial included so even people who have never played a game of poker should be able to pick it up with relative ease.
The characters are closer to caricatures than anything else, each being an off-the-wall example of the worst possible casino traveling stereotype. I almost think they must have done their research here in Mullet Capitol USA (also know as Spokane, to the uninformed), as one of the characters is a perfect example of a mulletier. Other characters include hot chicks in low-cut dresses, the token Afro-wearing African American, old men with respirators, and more. The only thing the characters have in common is the silly manner in which they are designed and animated. The animation is nothing spectacular, and each character only has one or two simple motions they make, but considering that the animations are completely irrelevant to the enjoyment of the game, I don’t hold it against them.
There is music in the game and you are even allowed to choose from a handful of tracks, and they are about as good as can be expected from a Game Boy. The music was not my cup of tea, but I avoided having the audio on, mostly because of the sound effects. Each character has its own sound effect which is repeated constantly, and trust me, these are not sounds that you want to hear that many times.
If you have a Game Boy and enjoy poker, there is really no reason not to consider this title, especially at only $19.99. Sure it costs a bit more than a deck of cards, but it also provides you with digital opponents, dealers and even a couple of games you cannot play solely with a deck of cards. The audio and visual components are nothing to brag about, but they suffice and manage to provide the player with the necessary information. If nothing else, you will never lose the ace of spades card while traveling.