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World Championship Poker
game: World Championship Poker
three star
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: Crave Entertainment
developer: Eagle Games
ESRB rating: E (Everyone)
date posted: 12:00 AM Sat Jan 15th, 2005
last revision: 12:00 AM Sat Jan 15th, 2005

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Click to read.Of all the recent crazes to sweep America, probably one of the least foreseeable would be the enormous popularity of professional poker.  It seems like no matter when you turn on the TV you can always find someone, whether it be professionals or celebrities, wagering thousands on the turn of a card.  The draw of professional poker is that the game is easy to learn and fun to play, which makes it easy to imagine ourselves holding a perfect hand with the high rollers in Las Vegas whenever we watch the game on TV.  Therefore it only seems right that someone would release a video game which, at least to a small extent, lets us live that dream.  Enter World Championship Poker?.

WCP is a new card-playing game for the Game Boy Advance with a price tag under $20.  Despite its low price, this game offers you a wide variety of ways to entertain yourself by losing your chips.  From the main menu you can jump right into a quick game without wasting a second.  For your gambling pleasure you can play four different poker games; Texas hold'em, Omaha hold'em, seven-card stud, and my personal favorite, five-card draw.  If you're not in the mood for taking on three opponents, you can also try your hand at blackjack, video poker, or slot machines.  If your knowledge of the rules of a certain game is a little hazy, the game also provides well-written and fully animated tutorials for every card game.  However, while the quick games are all good and fun, the real meat of this game lies in its career mode.  You start out in a casino called the Wild Corral Casino, just one of four casinos on Casino Lane.  The owner of the Wild Corral kindly provides you with $5,000 to start out with.  To gain entrance to the higher-end casinos, you must improve your wealth and show your skills by winning tournaments.  Also, if lady luck isn't on your side and you manage to lose all of your cash, there is a loan shark in the game who will provide you with some extra spending money; but you better hope your luck changes if you ever want to pay him back. 

Unfortunately there is no save feature included in the game that lets you save your career and your winnings.  Instead, quiting means that you are provided with a password in the form of five playing cards that you can use later to continue your career, and not having an actual save feature is a real pain.  Even though the career mode isn't very long and is easily beatable in one sitting, it would still be nice to be able to save where you are in case your batteries start to die.  If playing against opponents with real flesh and blood is more your style, you can link up with up to three other friends and try your luck via the game's multiplayer mode.  I don't know what the odds are of 4 people having a GBA and this game, but somehow, no deck of cards, but the multiplayer mode does have the benefit of shuffling the cards perfectly every time.

There isn't a whole lot that can be said about how the game looks.  Your opponents all take the form of the most clich├ęd groups of casino-goers.  From little old ladies, to suave businessmen, to well-endowed women, this game basically puts you up against any character you could manage to dig up in a typical casino setting.  The characters all have a few animations they perform when something happens to them; sometimes you'll see a snicker when they get a good card or maybe get a frown when a poor card is flipped, and every now and then it appears they just like to taunt you.  All of the characters also have a very cartoonish look.  While not really adding any realism to the game, this graphic style might be able to at least keep you in a better mood while you are getting your butt whipped.  The same holds true for the sounds of the game.  Each casino has its own goofy, yet appropriate theme music.  The music is simple, but it stays with the toon-like theme of the game and adds some atmosphere to the table.  To go along with their animations, the characters also emit strange and occasionally annoying sounds whenever they please.  It can really start to make you mad when you are getting every card but the one you need while your adversaries are shouting Woo!? with every deal.  Not all of the sounds are informative, however.  Often your fellow players will do things like shuffle their hand or blow on their glasses just to try to irritate you.

Gameplay is about as straightforward as it gets.  You use the D-pad to make a selection such as a table, card, or command, and then use A or B to confirm or go back.  To bet you use the R and L buttons to increase or decrease your wager.  There is not a complex control moment in this game, and it truly deserves its E? rating.  It isn't like a poker video game needs in-depth control schemes, though.  The act of playing is can be both fun and frustrating, depending on the moment.  There were a few times I wanted to throw my GBA into the wall.  It was also nice to see that each character has their own playing style, and that those playing styles can be exploited after you figure them out.

Overall, World Championship Poker is an entertaining game which should appeal to poker fans of all ages.  The AI can be a little weak at times, and the lack of an actual save feature in the game is annoying and occasionally costly, but for those times when you don't have anybody to play a real game of cards with and you just need something to pass the time, WCP would be an inexpensive and worthwhile pickup.

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