Battle Poker is a fairly basic game that revolves around the rules of poker. The way that the game is set out you really do need to know a little bit about poker in order to enjoy it, although there is a guide to point-scoring in the Software Manual that can be accessed by pressing Triangle at the Battle Poker icon on your PSP menu.
If you’re not familiar with the rules of poker, you really will need to check out the Software Manual first. A Poker Hands Guide is also provided via the Options menu, but it only tells you what points each hand is worth, using the icons that are used in the game (a toilet for the Flush!). I found it took me a long time to get into the gameplay simply because I’m not a regular poker player.
What is really kind of strange is that the CPU you’re playing against feels like a real live person that actually knows the rules better than you. You can see it thinking ahead and making all the moves quicker than you, it’s actually kind of creepy! It also sounds like it’s snickering to itself, but that’s just the sound effects I think. I hope!
The basic concept is solid: players battle against the clock to make the best five-card hand. There are two modes: Shuffle Up ‘N Deal With It, in which you arrange the five-by-five grid of cards to make ten of the best possible poker hands, and Chain Reaction, where you simply have to make as many five-card poker hands within the time limit by selecting individual adjacent cards with X and then pressing X again to capture the hand.
A fair amount of customization is possible via the start menu. The bit that I like best is being able to change backgrounds to such themes as hula (my favorite!), desert, surf, and even the iconic image of dogs playing poker! You can also change the cards to the more traditional two colors of black and red, which I found easier to play with than the four-color default scheme.
It’s also possible to tweak the individual settings of each of the two modes, and you will probably need to do this when first starting out. The default time limit in Shuffle Up N’ Deal With It is 5 minutes, which really isn’t long enough. If you like you can even start off with unlimited time, and maybe lower the limit as you improve.
For Chain Reaction, you have a certain number of rounds, with the default being five rounds of 1 minute each, but you have the option to increase that up to unlimited if you like, the same with the Time Per Round option.
To sum up, I just didn’t enjoy playing Battle Poker that much. It tries to put a spin on the poker theme but just doesn’t execute it well enough to hold your attention or keep you coming back for more. It was originally released as a WiiWare game with multiplayer options, and I think that might have been where it worked best. I can see it being a lot more fun playing against a human opponent. One for poker nuts only I’m afraid.