Review Date: March 31, 2010
Poker can be a baffling game. Unless you're well versed in the subtle nuances of the popular card game, it's difficult to get into. And, for the most part, the videogame representations of the game have been designed to appeal to those who already play poker. Not so with Poker Blitz. The latest game from Facebook developer Zynga is aimed at introducing new players to the world of poker and, for the most part, it succeeds.
Dealing a Fair Hand
Poker Blitz eschews the slow-paced, methodical gameplay that is inherent to real-world poker, and instead focuses on quick rounds that last just one minute. This rapid pace means that you don't have much time to think about what you're doing, especially if you want to get in as many hands as possible within the alloted time.
Thankfully, the game provides a number of features to help ease poker newbies in. You start with tutorial, which explains the basics, and then continuously unlock increasingly difficult new areas. Early stages, like Las Vegas, give you plenty of hints to help you along. You're even told what your chances are of winning with your current hand. But as you progress these hints and tips are slowly taken away, and the stakes quickly rise. Eventually you'll be placing bets in the thousands instead of just a few hundred.
This system works very well, as it lets you get acclimated to the ins and outs of the game before it raises the stakes. But even when the difficulty increases, the game still provides a helpful feature to make things easier. As you progress you'll earn various power-ups and other items that can turn the tide of any given hand. There are four-leaf clovers that swap your cards out for dramtically better ones and financial bonuses that let you do things like double the pot.
This all amounts to a fast-paced but very accessible game of poker, that's perfect for players uninitiated in the venerable card game.
Can I Have Some More?
Visually, Poker Blitz takes a cue from some of Zynga's other releases, like FarmVille and Cafe World, and features bright, cartoony graphics. In fact, your in-game avatar looks exactly like the one from FarmVille. There's also quite a bit of personality to the visuals, as you'll face off against a number of goofy characters, like a sandwich toting Elvis impersonator. You'll probably want to play with the sound off though, as Poker Blitz features a truly annoying high-energy soundtrack.
The major drawback with the game though is in the way it limits your play. Each one minute round costs a token, and these tokens are earned over time. After each hour you get a new token and you're limited to holding just three at a time. This means that you can only really play in three minute spurts. And while this does fit the pick-up-and-play nature of Facebook games, it's also quite frustrating if you want to play for longer.
The Bottom Line
Aside from the limited play time though, there's a lot to like about Poker Blitz. It's a perfect entry point for players who want to start learning the ropes of poker, and the gentle learning curve makes sure that things never get too frustrating, yet remain challenging.