Cheating is something I’ve loathed and never partaken in (well, most of the time). I’m as fair as you get them; which is why I like poker. It’s fair and honest; everything goes right. It’s a test of the mind, character, and bravado in the face of overwhelming odds. I like poker – and I tend to like poker games too.
Yet…up until a few days ago I had neither seen a game of Texas Hold’em with 11 Aces, nor a game where the community cards actually changed before my very eyes. I doubt you have either. Welcome to the bizarre and (sometimes) wonderful world of Texas Cheat’em. Developed by Wideload Games (Stubbs the Zombie, Hail to the Chimp), Texas Cheat’em is a poker game with a big twist. The rules that we have come to know about poker are thrown out of the window and replaced with sheer madness – everyone can cheat.
The game adheres to the basic principles of Texas Hold’em outside of a few additions to the betting phase. The real hook is the name: it’s all about cheating. With your cash totals and your cards, ‘Cheat Points’ can be spent on 15 different methods of cheating. Players can change their cards, change their opponents cards, peek at what they have, peek at what community cards will be drawn, steal chips, and can even win the game – no matter how rubbish their hand may be. While this does sound like sheer stupidity, the developers put a lot of thought into the title.
‘Cheat Points’ become depleted and are reimbursed after a round of betting, but can also be carried over should you choose not to cheat in a round. In order for your cheat to actually work, you must compete in a number of minigames. These range from button mashing to precision to simple luck of the dice. While some cheats are solo, others are PvP (player versus player) requiring you to beat your A.I./human opponents to affect the cheat. The game also lets you know if someone is cheating through varying on-screen notifications. A player’s gamerpic/avatar will flash red and helpfully tell you that they are cheating while colored dots corresponding to each player appear over the community cards notify that alterations are happening.
It’s fun for a while, but the game’s downfall is in a lack of content. There are only a few modes to traverse. Single player consists of four levels with four challenges each. It’s vanilla and lacks variety. Venues are unlocked through these challenges, usable in Practice mode (just an offline game with A.I. players). Outside of that there are dull tutorials (helpful for a non-poker player) and online multiplayer.
The online multiplayer is an even more manic experience than single player. The A.I. isn’t as creative as human players, which cheat at every possible opportunity. At the end of rounds, nearly every card in every hand is an ace which makes games boring and predictable. What’s more annoying, online games end when the host leaves, which gives hosts the ability to shut the game down when things aren’t going their way.
There are pluses to the game. The pot is split between the top players every hand (depending on the number in the game), so the third best hand out of six can still collect some cash. It also has stylish presentation, using your avatar and humor that will make cringe and chuckle to yourself in equal measure. A.I. players range from Ned Nerdlinger (groan) to my personal favourite – Abdul Al Raiseyou.
Even still, the game feels incomplete. Texas Cheat’em is a great idea reduced by a painful lack of variety. As it is, Texas Cheat’em is a worthy distraction and worth a check (with the trial version) before you call or fold.
Texas Cheat’em is available from the Xbox Live Marketplace for 800 Microsoft Points.