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Super Blackjack Battle II Turbo Edition

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Headup Games
Developer: Stage Clear Studios
Release Date: March 3, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Super Blackjack Battle II Turbo Edition'

by Brian Dumlao on March 23, 2017 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Super Blackjack Battle II Turbo Edition is an arcade fighting game with a roster of 12 very different characters all competing to become the greatest Blackjack player of all time.

Traditional card games have long been a staple of the PC space. Blackjack, in particular, has been around in digital format for a long time, and it is a consistent seller for the casual crowd who just wants something simple to run on their equally simple machines. For something so ubiquitous, how does one successfully make a paid version when so many are freely available online? If you're Stage Clear Studios, the answer is to make it a parody of fighting games. The inspiration for Super Blackjack Battle II Turbo Edition: The Card Battlers is clear. What's also clear after a few rounds is how the concept doesn't have the gas to keep it in constant rotation.

On the surface, Super Blackjack Battle is the same familiar blackjack. You'll choose a character and go up against an opponent with $1,000 in your purse. Since this is based on having a dealer present, your opponent isn't the person at the table but the dealer. You can only win the hand if you beat the dealer, who tries to stay at a base minimum of 18, so you aren't too concerned with your opponent as long as the dealer beats him or her. The other standard rules like Insurance (a side bet that the dealer gets blackjack), Doubling (getting one more card but doubling your initial bet), and Split (getting two independent hands if your first two cards are the same denomination) are still present,  so those with a more intimate knowledge of the game won't feel that this is too dumbed-down for everyone else.

The twist comes from each match consisting of rounds. Given a 10-round limit, your goal is to finish the match with a higher purse than your opponent. The only way the game ends sooner is if you or your opponent lose all of your cash. Both players start with $1,000, and none of that cash carries over into the next match, so everyone is on even ground. The idea is that by giving both players a finite amount of time to win, they'll be more encouraged to take on more daring bets instead of playing it safe and slowly amassing funds.

The game is split into four modes. Standard Blackjack is essentially you versus the dealer, with no set goal in mind other than to keep getting funds. You can choose any character you want, but unlike the fighting game that served as its inspiration, there's no difference between characters beyond aesthetics. The mode doesn't feel any different from other blackjack titles, but it features an online leaderboard so you can see how your purse ranks among all other players.

The real meat of the game is the campaign, which has you facing off against nine opponents in international locations before returning to Vegas to take on the final boss. Though the characters have no exclusive traits, they have their own storylines that play out once the boss is defeated. Other than that, they'll spout verbal taunts that are distinct to each foe they defeat, so you won't read the same lines after every win.

If the idea behind the number of rounds is to goad you into taking riskier bets, then the campaign fails. From the beginning to the end, you can easily use the bare minimum bet of $50 per round and win almost every time. Part of the reason this happens is because there's never a minimum bet enforced beyond $50, so playing terribly with every hand means you'll end the match with a guaranteed $500 in your purse unless you modify those bets. The other reason you'll almost always win is because the AI opponent bets wildly. Unless it has a good lucky streak, the AI will often make big bets on losing hands. Everybody succumbs to this strategy, including the end boss, and the game is less exciting once you realize you can let the opponent beat themselves.

The final two modes are both online, since you're either participating in single 10-round matches or tournaments with other players. Super Blackjack Battle keeps you busy by letting you play standard blackjack against the dealer with infinite funds at your disposal while you wait for an opponent to be found. The bad news is that this is really the only part of the mode you'll ever experience. We've done multiple, long searches for both modes and found that no one is playing the game. A quick check on the leaderboards proves this suspicion. Unless you can convince a friend to buy their own copy so you can finally have online matches, it is best to consider this a single-player experience.

At the very least, the presentation does a good job of mimicking the game it was inspired by. The graphics exhibit a 16-bit look with big, expressive character faces, an expanded color palette, and very sharp movements for each action. Unlike other titles, there's no doubt that this could've been done on the authentic hardware of the time. Meanwhile, the audio has a similar story with chiptunes that resemble what you'd expect to find in a fighting game of the time period. There's no other flair to remind you that this is a modern title and not a retro one.

There's a cool concept in Super Blackjack Battle II Turbo Edition: The Card Battlers. The idea of making a game by integrating blackjack into a fighting game model seems silly, but the quick nature of the game and the finite amount of time needed to amass a healthy purse add some excitement to the experience. Unfortunately, there's no longevity to the game. The AI battles can be played way too safely to guarantee wins, and there's no online community to scratch the versus itch due to lack of local multiplayer. Super Blackjack Battle is a curiosity, but it's not a title that needs to be in your library unless it's available for cheap or you have a taste for bizarre game concepts.

Score: 5.0/10

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