Full House Poker is the first console poker game I have played since World Series of Poker back on the original Xbox. That game was a lot of fun, offering versions of poker I've never heard of before, as well as massive WSOP events where you had to try and win against 10,000 opponents. The problem was that these opponents were CPU's and since Xbox Live hadn't really taken off, it was as close as you got to real poker. The thrill of taking down real people and not knowing whether a person is bluffing or actually playing with a good hand was lacking in that title. Full House Poker aims to bring the best of both worlds in a cheap, affordable Xbox Live Arcade title.
There is a lot to like about Full House Poker. Great use of your avatars, a single player mode complete with a small pro takedown mode and multiplayer. Multiplayer is probably where this game falls down, with potential for it to thrive in the xbox community it has really failed to deliver an experience to rival internet poker sites.
Just like many of the Kinect launch titles, Full House Poker uses your Xbox Avatar as the in-game player. The animations used are excellent and the addition of chip tricks that you can perform during games really add a little bit of spice to poker. One great thing used to expand the customization of the game is nicknames and more importantly outfits. Don't think your avatars current Halo suit of armor is suitable for a poker table? Then the new outfits rewarded for levelling up and taking down pros will allow you to dress up while you play. Once again, this is another cosmetic touch that just adds to the overall experience.
The main focus in poker certainly isn't the graphics, but the cartoon style certainly makes this look like an appealing game for the casual user. Menus are well set out and easy to follow and tips are easily accessible for people who need help with how to even play poker. No matter what the connection was like in multiplayer games, the frame rate stayed at a high level and I didn't encounter any lag in my play. Overall this is a very slick product.
Full House Poker uses your standard Texas Hold 'Em rules in all game types. As I previously mentioned there are both single and multiplayer modes. For those who don't want to play online, you can create a standard table or tournament with up to 30 CPU's to play against earning you chips and experience points to add to your total. The computer in these modes aren't the smartest opponents as they follow a pre-defined play style such as aggressive or passive betting. As you learn in the pro takedowns, these opponents will be known to always bluff or be easily sucked into constantly raising you or to only bet on a very good hand. Knowing how they play makes single player quite easy and no where near exciting as multiplayer mode.
To make a lot of money in single player it is recommended that you spend your time attempting Pro Takedowns. These are poker players with a certain play style that you must bust in a one on one encounter. Lots of money is on offer if you come away victorious, but money must be bet to even get the chance to play them. These characters also yield rewards such as new items of clothing to wear when beaten. As you level up more pro's are unlocked to defeat, encouraging you to keep playing the game to beat them all and get to the final 'All-Pro Table'. One thing I feel is missing from single player is the massive WSOP sized tournaments where you have to come from 10,000+ people to rank 'in the money' and possibly come away with a large amount of cash.
Multiplayer for me had a lot of potential but has failed to deliver for everyone. I say this because the standard multiplayer leaves a lot to be desired. With the standard tables to join and frustrating ranked multiplayer tournaments that very rarely start, it isn't a good mode. What is needed is big tournaments and big money tables that easily allow people to drop in and drop out. The tournaments are currently stuck at a maximum of 10 people per table and the only difference from normal multiplayer is that you can't rebuy once you are knocked out. I would like to see tournaments where a match fee is given perhaps 30 minutes beforehand and then a mass tournament starts with 1000's of people in the running for a share of a massive prize pool. There is DLC available called Texas Heats and apparently adds big tournaments which is what multiplayer is crying out for, but its currently only available in a handful of countries. This annoys me as everyone should get the chance to participate. Multiplayer is ruined as a large percentage of the US players are now involved in tournaments, leaving a dwindling player base from around the world to struggle with the quiet standard multiplayer.
As much as I am disappointed with the multiplayer, the potential for success is there as long as the developers can include everyone in on the multiplayer action. This previous WP7 success has made a good impact as an arcade title that has unlimited replay value with the addictive sport of poker. Getting to level 50 and finishing the single player takedowns will take someone who hasn't brought over their WP7 profile many hours to complete.
Bring the Texas Heat tournaments and userbase to the rest of the world and Full House Poker could have a thriving multiplayer experience that isn't rivalled on any other arcade title on the console. This is a great game in all despite some of its shortcomings.
Graphics - 7.5/10
Sound - 7/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Overall - 7.5/10