Word of advice: Leave the credit card at home.
Okay, I admit it. I love to gamble. I love the sights and sounds of a bustling casino. I love the glitz and the glamour, the mafioso undercurrent and the seedy ego-driven machismo of high stakes betting. I love the winners, the losers, the dreamers, and the downtrodden scum that infest gambling halls around the country. I love the cold air pumped in to keep you awake, and the watered down booze to keep you sedated. But most of all, I love to gamble. Does that make me a bad person? (No. I'm a bad person 'cause I don't call my mom and I eat meat. Mmmmm.......). [Ed. Note: Dr. Moo lives in Berkeley, California where meat is practically illegal]
There is, of course, one thing that I don't love about gambling. It's not the empty wallet or the shattered hopes of fortune, nor is it the inevitable realization that no one has any idea what they're doing. The thing that I hate about gambling is the 4 hour drive to the outskirts of Nevada at 2 in the morning.
The cure for my road trip blues? Sierra, purveyors of happy and all-around bitchen' gaming, provide the answer with Hoyle Casino, an effective if modest translation of America's second favorite pastime (looting being number one).
This installment of the Hoyle series features 5 different casino games: Slots, Blackjack, Roulette, Craps, and Poker. You start with a payroll of five thousand bucks, with another 5 G in the bank. You have the freedom to navigate around a busy casino and play at any table.
Rather than blather on about each game in particular, here's a quick rundown. The Slots section is really cool, with smooth animation and a nice variety of machines. The only problem here is that Slots aren't much fun on a computer. You just kind of sit there and click on the handle and watch 'em go. Whoo!
Blackjack is pretty much identical to the one found in the aptly named Hoyle Blackjack. I believe the only difference is that the CPU opponents (little cartoon portraits) now move a bit. Again let me say, Whoo.
Roulette is well-done. You can play with or without the wheel, depending on if you want to sit and wait for it to load. It looks pretty cool - the good sound effects add realism. This is also the place where you can make a fortune. I found that by betting all my money, selecting a color, and taking my 50/50 chance paid off... big time. As the money is not real (does this come as a surprise to you? If it does, please stop reading and don't even think about having kids), it's not even really a risk. If you blow it, just restart under a different name... much like my last trip to Vegas.
Craps is my favorite game, and Sierra did a nice job recreating the feel. I actually learned quite a bit about the complexities of the game by playing (and losing). The caller has this great voice that sounds like somebody from the 1920's.
There are several different Poker games here, including 7 card stud, Hi-Lo variations, and Texas Hold 'Em. As the most intimidating and difficult game to master, it's a shame that more games weren't offered. If you're a big Poker fan, you might want to check out Hoyle Poker instead.
Graphically, Hoyle Casino looks exactly like the other Hoyle games - clear, quick loading with nice, big sprites. The cards are easy to read, the dice are easy to see, and the tables look fine. There's nothing especially dynamic going on, as most of the focus is on clarity and simplicity. I hoped to see some more interesting opponents, maybe some photo realism, and they still haven't done anything about including a dealer graphic. The sound is great, with accurate clinks, shuffles, and mildly irritating voices.
By far the best thing about this game is the Multi-Player option. You can connect to the Sierra gaming site and log on to play against other gamblers in a real-time match. With full chat capability and a super-quick server, this is where the fun lies. You can only play Blackjack or Poker, which is kind of a bummer. I'd love to see a ton of sickos up late at night throwing down fake dough on the Come line...
The only major problem here is the 'fun-o-meter.' Frankly, it's not much fun playing for fake money by yourself. The main use of this game is in helping to round out your gambling skills. Just by playing for a few hours, I feel confident enough to haul my butt to Reno and lose some real money.
With a well-integrated online tutorial and tip section, there's not much wrong with this game. Rather than spend your money on individual copies of Blackjack and Poker, you can get this combo package. Nothing flashy, but a solid gambling game for the addicts and the curious.