Developer – 5000ft
Publisher – Myelin Media
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
When I first received my latest game to review, Stacked with Daniel Negreanu for he PSP my first thought was wow it's amazing to think of how far Texas Hold'em Poker has come. It's almost everywhere these days and now there are three Poker games available for the PSP. When the editor in chief handed this title over to me I was impressed with the simple yet slick look of case. I had been anticipating this game for several months as it had already been released on other platforms with what seems to be ages ago. Unfortunately, Stacked with Daniel Negreanu (PSP) did not live up to my expectations, however when you take into consideration how affordable the game is it's not a bad bang for your buck.
In terms of the visuals Stacked with Daniel Negreanu is somewhat of a disappointment and in my opinion it does not optimize the power of the PSP. While the Poker environments look good and the player models are decent; the presentation is weak and the menus are nothing to write home about. One of the biggest issues which negatively affect's the visuals is the load times. For instance, when you are attempting to create a character you experience slow down as you switch from one character model to another. I would also experience slow-down during the gameplay. In some instances the game would freeze or pause to allow for players to make their move (betting or folding). While the freezing or pausing may not seem like such a big deal the first few times you play, over the course of a Career mode you frustrated pretty quickly.
I also have some huge concerns with some of the presentation aspects of Stacked with Daniel Negreanu. For instance, why do I have to scroll through a menu to see what hand I have? I have the memory of a minute and would like to able to see my hand at all times during the game. Some would argue that in a real game you don't leave your cards face up all game therefore they should be hidden but in this case I would argue that it's a video game people!
Another area of concern is the chip count at the table. Why does it look like everyone only has 2 chips in their possession? The game is Poker and the table should at the very least try to somewhat accurately represent how many chips everyone has. Instead you have to rely on your memory as the game quickly displays your opponent's money total as they make a move. Stacked with Daniel Negreanu can make it difficult for the user to strategize and plan for your next hand. There are certainly some other noticeable glitches in the game as well such as the currency totals of other players at the table overlapping with other player's totals. This would generally occur at the point when one player makes a move (betting, folding or calling), then shifts to the next player at the table. Essentially for a brief second, you simply can't read the money totals for that given player.
On a positive note, I was impressed with the player animations. Overall I felt they looked good. There certainly could have been some improvements here, especially when you compare the game with other PSP Poker games. That being said the players looked sharp and reacted on occasion which I thought was a nice touch.
As far as the sound is concerned, Stacked with Daniel Negreanu is about average. The following sounds stood out for me:
- Player and dealer voice chatter and smack talk;
- The noisy Vegas casino atmosphere; and
- The overall presentation and sound of the Poker School tutorial.
In terms of the player chatter and smack talk, I was pleased at first but I found after awhile it gets very repetitive. You can hear, "do you need a calculator" only so often before you want to smack the jerk who keeps making the comments. As far as the dealer's voice is concerned, it's clear and only adds to the gameplay.
With regards to the Vegas atmosphere, once again when you first play all the clinging sounds of slots and shuffling poker chips is enjoyable. But the repetitive nature of the sounds gets on your nerves after awhile. Too bad they couldn't play some music in the background or something. At least with Stacked with Daniel Negreanu you can control the volume controls and eliminate the background noises.
I was impressed with the Stacked with Daniel Negreanu Poker School. The music and lessons provided by Daniel Negreanu are phenomenal. I would consider myself an amateur poker player, so I found the lessons with the solid music playing in the background informative and enjoyable. It was a nice break from gaming and great little tutorial which teaches you everything from the fundamentals of Hold'em to advanced tournament strategies through full motion video, voiceovers and dynamic in-game features.
If anything, the more you play Stacked with Daniel Negreanu the more I am convinced you could become a better Poker player. As mentioned earlier on I consider myself a novice poker player, and for that aspect alone I enjoyed the gameplay however I did have some issues.
When you first fire up the game, the main menu gives you different options such as play a quick game, online games, career mode, LAN Game, Adhoc game, Player Management, Settings and Credits. More often I found myself adjusting the difficulty level and starting a quick game. With Career mode, you start with your budget at the casino. From there you play in various single table or multi table tournaments with the goal of playing in the major tournament for the casino. Other environments and events become available including two other casinos, once you have placed in a tournament,
One of the unique features about Stacked with Daniel Negreanu is the game starts to learn how you play. The game's Artificial Intelligence model is built off of a system called Poki. The Poki Artificial Intelligence system utilized in Stacked with Daniel Negreanu adapts its tactics in real-time to exploit the user's playing style, detecting tendencies and deploying appropriate counter-strategies to deliver a challenging and authentic experience. Essentially the game will start to learn your tendencies. For instance, if you play like a maniac by bluffing and placing big bets with crappy hands, the AI will start challenging you and eventually you will blow your load.
Another great aspect of the gameplay is the eight different AI players or bots in the game. Each AI player plays a little differently. Some play like, as Daniel Negreanu refers to them, as a rock while others play like maniacs. Bottom line, there certainly some strategy in this game and I like the fact you are not playing eight generic bots who all the play the same way.
When I first played a couple of tournaments, I admit that I was annoyed with how long I had to wait in between hands if I folded right off the hop. However once I realized there was a ‘speed up' option it made the game much quicker and far more enjoyable.
As far as the controls were concerned I have some serious concerns. I absolutely hated the fact that every move I wanted to make I had to do through a menu at the bottom left of the screen. Why can't the buttons be assigned? For instance, the ‘X' button could be call, the ‘O' button fold, etc. I was also discouraged by the betting which moved too quickly. Every time I wanted to bet say $50.00, the money would go in light speed and jump ahead to say $300.00 before I knew it. Some adjustments certainly need to be made here.
Overall, I would say that I enjoyed the gameplay and the challenge of trying to win the tourneys. Generally I received good advice from Daniel Negreanu. By the way I forgot to mention this is an option in the game. At any given point in a game you can ask for Daniel's advice. Sometimes, Daniel was way off base however for the most part I consistently played the hand safely when I listened to him.
Stacked with Daniel Negreanu is good little poker game for gaming on the go. If you are a pro or veteran of poker games you may want to stay away, but only some time with the game will tell. However if you are a novice or someone who hasn't played many poker video games, this one is for you. The graphics are average and the sound is ok but the gameplay is engaging as it becomes more challenging the more you play and advance through career mode.