Monday, March 9, 2009

iPhone Game Review: 4 Card Pro

Of the hundreds of variations of poker that exist, only handfuls are known to the masses. Texas Hold ‘Em, 5 Card Stud, and 5 Card Draw are among the best known variations of the game. 4 Card Poker, however, is not one of those that many people know; but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a large following and fan base. Avalinx, the makers of the PRO series of casino card games for the iPhone and iPod Touch have decided that it is time for you to learn of this variation.

4 Card Poker is a variation of poker that is both popular and interesting. Instead of the normal table based game, you can choose to play only against the dealer, not against other players. Additionally, the game is two games in one (if you take an optional bet), meaning that you can both lose and win in the same hand. 4 Card PRO, the newest poker game from Avalinx, takes this odd variation of a popular card game and simply ports it to your iPhone, doing so in their normal flawless manner.

Did you know that a former US Navy Lieutenant Commander won over six thousand dollars while playing poker during the Second World War? Did you know that he then used the winnings to buy a seat in Congress (very interesting considering the person). Finally, did you know that the political clout gained by that seat got President Nixon into the Oval Office? Well, now you do! You can learn this, and more interesting facts about poker in general, simply by reading the ‘history’ section in the main menu of 4 Card PRO.

Following their standard model, Avalinx included a history section in 4 Card PRO to get you more in the game. Not only does it serve to entice, it also serves to educate and show that the game was well thought out and developed. I really do like these features as they help me learn and remember new items. Plus, as a frequent buzztime player at my local BW3, I can use this information to get lots of answers right; thanks for the help. My only issue is that the history section was not specific enough to 4 Card Poker, and instead it focused on Poker in general. I would like more game specific information in the future.

Still sticking to their standard model, Avalinx delivered another flawless and perfect concept and design in 4 Card PRO. The game play is easy, the controls great, and the menus intuitive. They have found a method that works and, unlike most companies in America these days, were smart enough to stick to it. This is a good idea, as people will come back for what they like, and they clearly like this. I believe that no other card game on the iPhone or iPod Touch, including the Texas Hold ‘Em game from Apple themselves, come close to being nearly as good, as pretty, or as sensitive, as the games in the PRO series. Congrats on doing so well.

An interesting feature of 4 Card Poker is that the dealer has an advantage over you. While you are dealt five cards, and need to pick the best four, the dealer is given six cards. While this sixth card is shown to all players (to help you calculate odds and decide to fold), this gives the dealer a huge advantage. In a two player game, like 4 Card PRO is set up as, odds are that that single card will help him 12% of the time. While this might not seem like a lot, it surely is when you are talking about lots of money.

To counter this, Avalinx has included an ‘ask the dealer’ option that helps you decide how to play the hand. Sometimes you need to muck (fold) and lose the anti, sometimes you should raise, and sometimes you should play the aces bet. No matter what you should do, the dealer will tell you what the odds say you should do. Your own risk aversion, however, is entirely up to you. This is a cool feature as it allows you to practice your odds counting, and it makes sure that you can learn how to play the game properly. This sort of thing is there to help out new players, and that makes sure that people will play the game over and over.

Though I complimented the template that Avalinx was using earlier, there is one problem with it. Sure, the game play is great and the graphics are stunning, but I want something new. Having the same card backing, same table backdrops, and same chip layout is starting to get a bit tiring. Frankly, this is starting to take away from the game because it is just not customizable enough, and there are not enough options for the total number of products they currently have out. I would recommend taking a week off of developing the next PRO game, and instead focus on revamping the graphics and looks of all of your games. Doing something like this will only make them better, and really should not harm the company in any way. As I sad, however, this harms 4 Card PRO only a little bit.

Overall, I believe that 4 Card PRO is yet another great additions to the PRO series from Avalinx. Like all of their games, it is flawless in design and perfect in game play. Plus, the looks are just killer. I really like the history sections and the fact that it is easy for a new player (I was new until I started playing with this game) to get on their feet. The only downside is that the overall look is starting to get tiring, and that drops 4 Card PRO down a half-star. Other then that, 4 Card PRO is an outstanding game for you iPhone or iPod Touch.

4 Card Pro has not been rated by the ESRB. The game is currently available on the iPhone and iPod Touch

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