WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POKER / Crave / Sony PSP
 
 
World Championship Poker differentiates itself from the other early poker titles on the PSP (World Poker Tour, World Series) by having a more cartoony art style and letting the player go nuts with their created character -- it's possible to play as a skeleton, alien or clown among other options, though your competition at the table will consist of generic human schmos for the most part. The actual table action is the same, however, but with the incorporation of more poker variants than just Hold 'Em into the career mode. While all of this is well and good, an incredibly sluggish pace to the career games and poorer AI than the other two big games keeps World Champ from winning the pot.

Career mode is closer to what I've been looking for than anything else I've seen yet -- kinda an RPG-influenced mode like Casino Kid, just not terrible -- as you choose from multiple events to attend each week and increase your reputation over time both with your play and by furnishing your house. There are also a variety of different game types on offer each week instead of the stock No Limit Hold 'Em (although that's usually available too). And if you don't like the current offerings, you can hold a game of your choosing at your own house.

The big problem here is the actual gameplay -- too sloooow. Which is odd, because the game actually has a much-needed turbo mode that cuts CPU animations and makes them take their turn instantly, which addresses the big weakness of some of the other titles like World Poker Tour. But outside of that one feature, everything else is glacial and the play is inferior to other titles. Blinds are too small and increase too slowly, the CPU is waaaay too conservative with their betting, and even a tiny opening raise tends to get everyone to fold like scared rabbits unless they have a starting pair. With the computer playing so slow and predictable, it's not hard to win, but it takes years to complete a game because every pot is so small and you always have to bankrupt all the other competition to get out of it. And as is endemic with other poker games of this era, you aren't given the option to save and quit in the middle of a match. Two hours to complete a garage game with five other schmos is just way too much to ask.

Aside from the play, the graphics are also less impressive than the competing titles, and there's also no narrative commentary. Banter from the other players is also off-kilter, sometimes totally inappropriate to the current play.

This had potential, and it also had sequels so maybe those lived up to it. But I'd skip this particular title.
 
 
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