Game Over Online ~ Black Jack Pro

GameOver Game Reviews - Black Jack Pro (c) G3 Studios, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Black Jack Pro (c) G3 Studios
System Requirements Pocket PC
Overall Rating 81%
Date Published Thursday, May 9th, 2002 at 08:20 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Black Jack Pro is G3 Studio's inaugural product on the Pocket PC and PC platform. The title's cross-pollination is a testament to the similarities that are inherent to both platforms and also the influence of G3 Studio's Guido Henkel, who oversaw the production of the critically acclaimed Realms of Arkania. In addition, he also oversaw the production of the (even more) critically acclaimed and (unfortunately only) slightly more popular, Planescape: Torment. The latter title was, and in my humble opinion continues to be, an unrivaled canon in the annals of RPG titles. Thus, it is no surprise that the spectacular production values that graced those PC titles have translated to Black Jack Pro.

This card game essentially revolves around the game of blackjack. But anyone who is even remotely familiar with blackjack at the casinos will be well aware of the different styles of play and Black Jack Pro presents this in Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas Downtown, Reno and Atlantic City rulebooks. There is little in the way of progression or character development. This isn't a Sierra Hoyle title where you hone an artificial persona. Any player you set up in Black Jack Pro can change between the different styles and you are at liberty to add monetary funds to the game whenever you wish. Black Jack Pro, however, pays close attention to the rules of blackjack with the dealer standing fast by its own rules and you trying to outsmart it. Black Jack Pro also offers a hint function to coach people through play and this, I think, should be in every Pocket PC card game hereafter.

You play blackjack using the stylus just as in every other card title, but the visuals are probably what stand out most in this game. Black Jack Pro resists from one of the most common ailments of card games on handhelds: the propensity for the cards to be too small and almost unidentifiable. Its animation of cards is extremely fluid and the whole setup is artistic, with a minimal of attention in the gameplay area given to amateurish Windows-like buttons or menu bars. At the same time, it often makes navigation a slight chore since you don't know where exactly the menu hotspots are. The most impressive thing about the game is undoubtedly the animation of the dealer hands, which is fluid and convincing.

Clearly, the developers have actually played the game and the fluidity of the gameplay process itself reflects that. After you make an initial bet and play a hand, the same place where you tapped away your last card is where you place a 'Speed Bet' to start off another hand. This type of alacrity highlights the care put into the product. Indeed, the lengthy manual, though with one tiny spelling error, is very informative of how the game of blackjack plays out. The dealer, it writes, is bound to rules in a steadfast manner and this duel-like attitude translates into the actual gameplay itself.

There are also other slight mishaps. For example, on one given hand, I decided to double-down against any sane advice either from me or from the game. Subsequently, I was able to 'hit' up until I had five cards in my hand. All the while, the in-game mentor kept telling me to stand, even though I had less than ten when I doubled down. The only ambient audio in the game is a loop of what you would hear at casinos. It's great on the speakers but when on headphones, it quickly becomes repetitive. However, these errors are few and far in between.

Ultimately, Black Jack Pro does what it sets out to do very well, but I couldn't imagine a development group with that much credential would only settle for a blackjack title. This title's production value are much beyond its content and therefore makes this like Steven Soderbergh coming off of the critical successes of Erin Brockovich and Traffic to work on the more routine Ocean's Eleven, or Steven Speilburg's Hook/Lost World, in the midst of Saving Private Ryan or AI. Thus, I really think this title is to test the waters for the Pocket PC platform. The effort put into this simply screams to be put into the action and RPG titles that G3 Studios is looking forward to after Blackjack Pro. Don't get me wrong though, this is a wonderful blackjack title - but more like a little finger exercise in a piano warm-up before the actual piece begins.

[09/10] Addictiveness
[16/20] Gameplay
[13/15] Graphics
[07/10] Interface/controls
[07/10] Program Size
[04/05] Sound
[04/05] Discreetness
[13/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer


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