The latest installment of the massively popular RPG-poker hybrid Sword & Poker, Sword & Poker 2 feels less like a sequel and more like a gloriously beefy expansion to the first game. You don’t need to have played the first game at all, but for those that have, just know that the sequel is exceptionally faithful to the original, which is either good or bad, depending on what you were hoping for.
If you never played the first game, you’re in for a treat, because as improbable as the game sounds, it’s one of those insane creations that is absolutely full of win. It takes all of the classic RPG elements (weapons, dungeon crawls, etc.), but replaces combat with an ingenious poker-based puzzle.
Despite the crazy concept, Sword & Poker 2 really is a far simpler and more satisfying game than you might think. You definitely don’t need to be a poker enthusiast to grasp the combat mechanism, but you will want to know the basic poker hands. You also don’t need to know much about RPGs, since the game is a puzzler at heart, just one with magnificently elaborate trappings.
Once you initiate combat, you start with a 5×5 grid, with the center nine cards already filled in. You take turns with the monster placing two cards at a time in the grid to create poker hands. Stronger hands deal more damage, and you can see your opponent’s hand and vice versa, so there’s also a fair amount of strategy involved. You may not want to go for that two pair if it leaves your enemy open for a sweet flush. Once you fill the grid, a new round begins.
On the RPG front, better weapons increase damage and shields help protect you from your enemy’s attacks. You also gain different magic spells through the game that give you certain abilities, like stealing cards from your opponent’s hand. Different bad guys have different abilities, and bosses may even have annoying skills, like constant healing.
If you liked the first game, there’s a very good chance you’ll like this one too, although almost nothing has changed. The artwork is the same bold, cartoon design, and gameplay is effectively identical. Subtle changes include the ability to preview monsters before you commit to battle and the ability to play your own music. There are also new golden monsters which don’t attack, but if you can kill them before they run away, they will drop rare and valuable equipment. There are plenty of other new monsters as well, and three save slots and a pass-and-play two-player mode add to the overall replay value.
It sounds like an exaggeration, but this is a game I couldn’t put down. I’ve lost sleep playing this game and loved every second of it. The title and premise may sound a little bizarre, but there’s a reason the first game was such a smash-hit, and Sword & Poker 2 definitely improves on the original, albeit in a subtle way. Make no mistake, Sword & Poker 2 is one dynamite, must-have game.
Here is a video demo of the Sword & Poker 2 app on the iPhone
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