Texas Holdem

Poker Smash — Action Mode (Trial Version)

Yes, that splash screen is indeed accurate. I’ve finally thrown my hat into the ring of the so-called “HD console” arena, although since I don’t wear a hat, I will apologize to whoever owns that chapeau if I’m confronted for having done something so thoughtless to poor, defenseless headwear.

Now, I’d like to stress that this is NOT the reason why I’ve failed to upload any videos for weeks on end… although it hasn’t exactly helped.

It’s funny, because all my plans and figuring had me thinking that when I did get around to acquiring a secondary console for the generation, it’d be the third Playstation, since there are a bunch of little uncomfortable details that make me consider it more favorably over the Microsoft-based competition… but when a friend of mine happens to have an extra (wait, what?! how does this happen?!) piece of hardware on his hands and is willing to let it go at too nice a deal for me to pass up, well, strange bedfellows and all that good nonsense.

Anyway, my personal preferences aside, there’s always going to be at least something to like in every major platform with a library of a certain size… and suddenly certain exclusives that I’d simply had to consider “unavailable” to me become very real opportunities… so, I will more than gladly jump at the chance to partake.

One such exclusive to catch my eye was this game, Poker Smash. We need look no further than the apparent influence of Panel de Pon upon its gameplay to understand why I’d be interested in it, but it’s the differences and departures that have me more intrigued than how things may be the same. The premise is centered around mixing the traditional rising stack, horizontal swap, and match-three gameplay with playing cards, particularly Poker… as the title might indeed cause one to imagine.

The marriage seems at first thought to be an unusual one, and indeed the transition from playing Panel de Pon to Poker Smash is not at all trivial… but simply sitting down and getting a hands-on experience with it only further raises my level of intrigue and makes it clear that this is a unique experience all its own and has me craving more.

Yes, this is simply the Trial Version (for now), but I think the demo is quite effective for what it is and does a good job of showcasing the final product in a positive light.

I only really have two gripes with the demo. First of all, the tutorial will always impose itself upon you on the first session of Action Mode per load of the Trial… though this is minor, since you can use the right bumper to bypass it one screen at a time. The other complaint is the fact that gameplay will be jarringly interrupted (for watchability’s sake, I’ve avoided this for the recording) when you fulfill the conditions required for an Achievement so as to let you know that if you buy the full version, you can earn the equivalent Gamerscore. A clever notion, but the execution could have used a touch more subtlety and would have been best served by reminding us later and without obstructing normal play… but all the same, I can’t particularly fault the Trial for keeping sight of the fact that it exists to convince people to buy the full version.

In fact, I will confess that once you get these one-time-each (again, per time you load up the Trial, as nothing is actually saved, obviously) interruptions out of the way, you actually have an incredibly engaging, albeit limited, version of the game on your hands. The ability to roam freely about the world of its stacks of chips and cards six-minutes at a time represents an incredibly engagement with Poker Smash, and I could honestly play this limited version for a more-than-adequate fix from time to time to tide me over before I eventually take the plunge on the real thing.

…and indeed I have. Clearly I’m “stealing” precious gameplay without properly funding the fine people at Void Star Creations! Hopefully this video and excessive gushing over their product is adequate recompense to the independent development studio, so they won’t have to poke and/or smash me for my crimes.

Anyway, the gameplay itself is quite well explained by the tutorial, the loading screen quick tips, and prior familiarity with Panel de Pon.

The only thing I have to confess is that I’ve not quite yet gotten the hang of the slow motion function, so that huge chain reaction near the beginning was just as surprising to me as it might be to any of you watching at home. I’d previously struggled to break through to even 7x… and I know this, because there’s a game-interrupting achievement notice prompted upon reaching this threshold.

It’s harder (so far) to chain in this game for me, because of the limited number of panels on the field at a time and because I haven’t really internalized the implications of the Full House clear… it basically just means you can’t take for granted certain bread-and-butter Panel de Pon style chain constructions.


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