The Xbox LIVE Arcade version of Full House Poker has been billed as this year’s answer to the 1 Vs 100 LIVE gameshow. While it’s disappointing that Microsoft decided that the world’s first online gameshow shouldn’t return for a third season, Full House Poker is a respectable enough replacement, especially given the publisher’s efforts in staging online tournaments.
Full House Poker on Xbox 360 presents the same single-player gameplay modes as the Windows Phone 7 version of Full House Poker, launched simultaneously on the Zune Marketplace. Taking part in matches will earn the player experience which will gradually increase their level, unlocking new bonuses such as animated chip tricks and new outfits. Winning matches not only grants more experience points (XP), but also earns more chips for the player’s bankroll, allowing them to take part in challenges with a higher buy-in.
The Pro Takedowns offer the real meat of the game, with increasingly difficult challenges available through successfully beating opponents and achieving set experience levels. The Pro Takedowns culminate in a tournament featuring six challenging opponents, and winning such a set-up is of course worthy of its own Achievement.
In addition to the single-player gameplay Full House Poker features two multiplayer modes, one of which proves to be rather unique. The traditionally expected online game is available, allowing the player to customise their Standard match or Tournament as they choose, or simply to find a game quickly and jump straight in. The Texas Heat Schedule is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the entire game however. Playing to a weekly schedule of thirty minute slots that is presented similarly to that of 1 Vs 100 LIVE’s quiz nights, games have varying entry conditions; requiring you to be at or under a certain level, or doubling and Blinds and Antes. Players have thirty minutes to earn as much XP as possible, with big rewards available for the bravest players.
Another way to progress through the level system and earn additional XP is by that of the Windows Phone 7 version of Full House Poker. The two versions of the game link via your LIVE GamerTag, and your profile is shared between – meaning all experience earned and your bankroll are available in either game. Purchasing Full House Poker for a Windows Phone 7 handset essentially allows you to continue playing on the go (minus the multiplayer options), adding an entirely new dimension to the game. It’s a feat that many have longed for since Nintendo first teased us with cross-platform compatibility between the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy, but here it’s finally beginning to take on a meaningful form. Of course, it’s a far cry from being able to save your progress on one system and then carry on from the exact same point on another, but it’s most certainly a step in the right direction.
While Full House Poker was never going to be a game with a visual quality that pushes the boundaries, the title is as well presented as could be hoped. The Xbox LIVE Avatars are present in every facet of the game, and the incidental animations are as welcome here as they are on the dashboard. The game features a lot of window dressing, from the venues in which the matches take place to the alternate costumes you can earn for use during the game, with the only real issue being that of the lack of contact with the cards and chips during matches; some frequently jarring animation sequences disappoint.
As an Xbox LIVE Arcade game that attempts to gently push against what the LIVE service is capable of, Full House Poker offers a fantastic insight into the direction Microsoft hope to take the network. The live matches presented almost as television shows demonstrate a very possible future in which the equating static broadcasts are outdone by the interactive medium, much like 1 Vs 100 LIVE before it, and the cross-platform compatibility with Windows Phone 7 is a welcome technical achievement that shows much promise for future linked titles. From a technical standpoint, Full House Poker is one of the best games currently available on the Xbox LIVE Arcade. However, Full House Poker is still just a poker game, and is not the first poker game on the Xbox 360 or on the Xbox LIVE Arcade itself; but if you were to purchase only one, Microsoft’s latest effort should be the first choice.