Poker. You're either hopelessly addicted to it, or you can't tell a flush from a straight. The word itself conjures up high-stakes games in Vegas, dusty saloon matches between cowboys, and crummy online games played with real money. Fortunately for us, Youda Games has brought back its casual poker-meets-simulation game in the delightfully accessible Governor of Poker 2. No matter if poker scares you or excites you, this game's got something great in store for you.
More than just a simple card game, Governor of Poker 2 strings together a light storyline that gives you an excuse to leave the table and explore the land, spending your cash on buying buildings or at the general store. The governor of Texas has declared poker illegal because it's a game of chance. It's your job to show him it takes skill to win at this game, not luck, sending you on a romp through the state, visiting towns and flaunting your skills in a number of saloons.
The story doesn't matter all that much, though, as you'll be spending most of your time at the table staring at cards. Governor of Poker 2 presents a solid game of Texas Hold 'em against a table of computer-controlled opponents. For the uninitiated, Texas Hold 'em deals each player two cards with a set of community cards in the middle. Anyone and everyone can use these cards to complete hands, making the real strategy of the game watching the other players and trying to determine if they're bluffing or are holding a valuable pair of cards.
Before and after each game, you'll get a chance to wander around each town, talking to townsfolk, visiting stores, and purchasing real estate using your earnings. Each building you buy nets you a certain amount of income each day, allowing you to keep a little cash coming in even if you're unlucky in cards. The meat of the game is in poker tournaments, though, so be sure to enroll (and win!) at the saloon each day of gameplay.
Analysis: Youda Games has a reputation for cranking out simple but well-implemented casual games that are just slightly to the side of the norm. Games such as Youda Safari, Youda Camper, and Youda Farmer utilize a different perspective on seasoned game styles. The result is an experience that's familiar enough to be attractive, but different enough to keep you reeled in.
The Governor of Poker series is no different than other Youda releases in this respect. Even if poker scares you with its intricate rules, this game manages to tear down part of that barrier to allow casual players to come inside and play. A lengthy (and optional) tutorial will introduce you to Texas Hold 'em basics, walking you through each step as many times as you like. You can even peek at a cheat sheet to see the highest value hand you can make, allowing you to learn which cards form which hands.
Of course, the most difficult part of translating Texas Hold 'em to the non-meatspace is getting opponent tells onto the screen. Even though you can't see the faces of people in Governor of Poker 2, players often give clues if they're bluffing, if they're frazzled, or if they're about to be in trouble. You can start to pick up on their personalities after some time, allowing you to call opponents out when you know they have a habit of bluffing. The subtle tells aren't a huge part of the game, but they're there, and poker fans will definitely appreciate it.
Adding the light simulation aspects was a good choice by Youda, taking the game out of the saloon and into the dusty streets of Texas. It breaks the action up at just the right times, creating that more casual atmosphere we love to experience. You can, of course, just play poker (even doing a quick round from the main menu), so don't worry about getting your fix!
Governor of Poker 2 is well-made, highly accessible, and surprisingly addictive for all kinds of players. It doesn't offer a world of difference when compared to the original game, but for poker fans and casual gamers alike, you'll find something to love in this game.