Let’s face it - great puzzle games don’t come along every day. And melding a classic like Tetris Smash (or Pokemon Puzzle League, or Panel de Pon, or whatever you want to call it) with poker could have had disaster written all over it. But through some brilliant design decisions and some pretty graphics, Void Star Creations has managed to put together something special in Poker Smash.
The premise is pretty basic. Cards from 10 through to “Ace” slowly fill up the playing field. It’s up to you to manipulate said cards into various poker hands. Doing so makes those cards disappear, dropping those on top down a few levels and ultimately keeping your play field from filling up. If your cards reach the top, it’s game over.
It’s very simple, really, and you’ll more often than not be matching three of kind, though getting a straight, flush, or full house will net you more points and get rid of more cards in a single move. Cards can only be moved horizontally, so that’s where the challenge comes in. Thankfully, you’ve got a few limited power-ups at your disposal to keep from getting overwhelmed. Bombs can be used to destroy a card at a moment’s notice, or you can speed up and slow down the rate at which your well fills.
On top of that, the game randomly gives you challenges during play, often asking you to make a specific hand within a certain amount of time. Not fulfilling these challenges has no negative effect, but meeting them racks up the points.
Multiplayer really shines in Poker Smash, too, with a four-player online mode that takes its cues from real poker. In the pot is a finite number of chips, and as players complete combos, they take said chips from their opponents. Lose all your chips, and you’re out. Gain all of the chips in the pot, and you win. The tournament style works great for a puzzle game like this.
Poker Smash is one of the best puzzle games you’ll find on Live Arcade, and for a mere 800 points, you just can’t go wrong.
Feb 7, 2008