Telltale had Poker Night At The Inventory before winning the jackpot on The Walking Dead. Ostensibly a game of poker, it was more like a stage for various crossovers to showcase his characters’ performances. Seeing TF2’s Heavy bounce off Sam & Max’s Max, Strong Bad, and Penny Arcade webcomic’s Tico was awesome. What always surprises me is that Poker Night At The Inventory didn’t cast a big shadow, except for one sequel he made a few years later.
Sunshine Shuffle is a game that takes the same basic concept as Poker Night (character building with poker) and uses it instead to tell a darker and more complex story. It falls into exactly the same pitfalls as Poker Night, but it’s the evolution of a concept I’ve been waiting for over a decade from him.
In Sunshine Shuffle, you put yourself in the shoes of a detective and are taken to a sunny ship to play poker with a gang of ex-criminals. They also happen to be cute animals. It’s your job to hear stories from their criminal days and decide their fate through a series of casual poker tournaments. Free them or hand them over to the fishy mob.
At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss this as just another ‘wholesome’ or ‘cozy’ game that lacks any substance and instead relies only on cute visuals. Instead, its morbidly sweet make-up is used to contrast the ongoing dark theme, with each character having multiple sides. We see them wrestle with their inner demons as the story unfolds, from Peter, a quiet and timid cockatiel with anger issues, to Jordan, a capybara who uses his boisterous personality to make up for his history of trauma and neglect. can be
It feels like you’re casually chatting with friends over a game of poker, and there are lighter, more comedic moments where you use well-timed puns and jokes to pull the ship back from a dead end. Unfortunately, as the topic gets heavier, the ebb and flow of the conversation impedes the pace. The cast may retreat, being dragged into a recurring loop of poker-themed callouts rather than the gripping crime tale that unfolded just minutes before. Peter doesn’t need to hear that he rarely raises to 12.
Despite Sunshine Shuffle’s interesting tone and likable characters, it lost interest in the story itself, quickly wrapping up with an unsatisfying twist and spending the entire game getting ready 1 I feel like I’m shaking off two options. make. Then a hilarious suggestion to keep playing poker after the credits roll. Characters range from well-written and layered to simply functioning as gargoyles playing fake poker together forever, with no further development or expectation of new dialogue.
This is where the same stumbling block occurs as with Poker Night At The Inventory. Poker with AI is boring. It loses the social element of trying to read your opponent’s moves and bluff to win, and after a few hands it starts to feel old. Poker should be an excuse for something, not the main attraction. Both games have characters who live and die, so when you stop delivering goods, all you’re left with is an unwelcome generic poker game.
The Sunshine Shuffle feels thin, but it’s also overextended. It might have turned out great if it had strengthened its greatest asset, the character. As it stands, the story ends too quickly and all that’s left is a half-baked card game that can be played anywhere without too much effort. It’s great to see Poker Night At The Inventory going live, but Sunshine Shuffle forgot that poker is always the least important part of it.
Code was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
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