Giant Bomb Review

7 Comments

Poker Smash Review

4
  • XBGS

Poker Smash's name might fool you into thinking it's all chips, cards, and bluffing. But this puzzle game will take you by surprise with its sharp gameplay.

This week's Xbox Live Arcade release is Poker Smash, a very cool game with the worst possible name. That's not to say that the name doesn't reflect exactly what's going on in Poker Smash. But it's pretty likely that people will see the word "poker" and immediately think "I already have the poker game that was free, I don't need another one" and move on.

Poker Smash is not a poker game. It takes the roles of poker hand ranks and applies it to the well-based puzzle game. Then it slaps on some good, evolved control mechanics. It's a high-quality puzzle game that you should look at.

You'll need some skill if you want to earn higher combos.


Rows of blocks with card ranks (10 through Ace) rise up from the bottom of the well, slowly at first. You use the left stick to move your cursor around, and the right stick lets you slide cards left and right. You can use the triggers to speed up or slow down the rising cards, though your slow-motion ability drains out if you use too much of it. You can also drop bombs on cards, causing them to pop and, if you're using them properly, setting up fat chain reactions. Bombs also come in a limited supply.

The goal is to make poker hands, starting at three-of-a-kind and moving up to all sorts of straights, flushes, full houses, and so on. The nine flush, which kicks off if you can somehow manage to line up nine cards of the same suit, seems to be the game's most rewarding (and most difficult) prize.

The gameplay is broken out a few different ways, including a timed mode, a puzzle mode, and an online mode for up to five people. Online, the dealer button gets passed around amongst the players. When you're the dealer, you can send garbage lines over to your opponents by setting off chain reactions. Also, the online game tries to work in a bankroll, so when you make hands, you gain chips, and you lose chips when other players make hands. It's another neat push-pull concept that changes things up a bit by giving you another way to lose.

Cards explode out of the pit when you line them up.


The graphics and sound are OK. The game rotates through music and visual themes in the same way Lumines does, though there are only 11 themes to work through. Also, a lot of the music is pretty hokey. They fit the theme, but every time I listen to the song about poker, I sort of want to just stop playing right there. A custom playlist option lets you cut out themes/songs that annoy you, but you have to unlock the themes first by purchasing them (with in-game earnings) in an online store.

So you've probably already skipped over Poker Smash, but double back and check out the demo. It's one of the better 800 point ($10) releases on Xbox Live Arcade.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
7 Comments
Posted by myzticaznfool

I can only manage to get a 7x chain once in this game...

Posted by FilmFreak71

Better than me, I can still only manage a 4x, I still can't get my head around the people that manage to pull of 100x chain combos

Posted by DJ_Lae

Yeah, I've peaked at 6x. I understand the concept of lining up chains beforehand, but when it comes to quickly shuffling around cards mid-fall, I usually run out of slow-down time and my combo ends at the 5 or 6 mark.

I'm also annoyed as I got within 5,000 points of a million and then bit it. No achievement for me.

Posted by hedfone

4th

Posted by mra138

5th

Posted by PompousDawson

Was this the first review for the site? Game looks interesting

Posted by RetroVirus

Greatness from humble beginnings.