HARD ROCK CASINO / Crave / Sony PSP
 
 
Hard Rock Casino's interface was criticized heavily as being too simplistic and Flash-esque when it was released ... that's a fair point, but it's also quick and mostly sensible, two points that a lot of these casino games can't even manage to get. The only real major knock against it is that you can't look up rules or probability tables while in the midst of games, having to quit out to the main menu to do so ... aside from that, though, the game moves and plays pretty smoothly, and if you're just looking to play one-off games here and there, it's not the world's worst choice.

If you're about the accoutrements and more elaborate modes of play, though, Hard Rock does a pretty bad job with nearly everything else. Let's start with character creation - it's extremely simplistic as compared to contemporary Payout Poker, basically only letting you choose from about 10 prefab body types and altering hair, shirt and pants color. For some reason the only two female models also look like a rusalka and a goblin with big tatas, respectively.

There's an "adventure mode" where you play the typical story of Gambling Jim who comes to Hard Rock with $1000 in pocket and quite unrealistically expects to leave a millionaire. You can play this situation any way you want, but the game divides itself into "chapters", to clear each of which you have to tick off a checklist of objectives. The problem is, these objectives are extremely poorly thought out. One that keeps recurring is "double your money at X game" ... well, that's trivial if you have less than $200, but a real pain if you're up in the tens of thousands. Others not only rely completely and totally on random luck, but also at terrible odds that force you to mindlessly grind, potentially for hours. In the first chapter you're expected to win a max bet at one of those shit slot machines that have only one pay line and like 12 different symbols ... next up, hold the dice at craps for ten straight rolls! If you miss a bet, not only do you have to start over, but first you have to grind the dice out of the hands of other players!

Perhaps the most unforgivable of the bunch is the blackjack objective, however. The first objective in blackjack here is to make 10 correct plays in a row, regardless whether you win or lose. OK, that should be fairly simple, especially if you have some sort of reputable odds chart. But even if you do, it doesn't matter ... because whoever programmed this aspect apparently had no clue what they were doing. You get your counter reset for the most bizarre things ... it happened to me countless times, but my favorite was when the dealer was showing 6, another player had already revealed they had 18, and I was holding only nine ... and the game told me that hitting was the wrong play. Showing three and having, again, a grand total of nine. Anyway, the blackjack objective is basically impossible unless you can deduce the game's bizarro logic using autistic powers or something.

The "objectives" aren't necessary to play the game, but you have to complete them to unlock additional casinos beyond the first (and simplest) one. So good luck with actually accessing all the content of the game you just paid for. Again, it's forgivable if you just want simple one-off games, but it's sloppy and shoddy design all the same. My cynical side wants to stay that stuff like the poor blackjack plays was done on purpose to train you to play shitty in case you visit a real Hard Cock Casino. Poker offers a good range of games right out of the gate, but it's a bit slow, and the Goldeneye-caliber character models don't lend themselves to implementing body language and tells. The rest of the games are the usual random crap at bad odds that isn't even worth your time.
 
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