Review by Matt Dunn
I am a fan of Texas Hold’em. I am not, however, a fan of the fact that there are probably twenty-something different versions of TH applications out there in iTunes. I bought Apple’s “HoldEm” when it first came out, and honestly was mildly impressed, despite the rave reviews. It’s probably the least played game I have ever purchased. Will THTouch spring up a well in this dried up River?
Now that you’ve had time to groan at that horrible joke, let’s chat about what I didn’t like about Apple’s HoldEm for a second. The biggest issue I had, was that it plain didn’t feel real. I have played a ton of Texas Hold’em over the past several years, as I have a group of friends who are completely hooked. I can tell you right now that rarely would more than one person make a huge bet before seeing the flop. And even more rarely, would someone actually call that bet! It’s not something that never happens, but it sure doesn’t happen on every other hand like Apple’s version of the game! I don’t want to go in $150 blind on every hand, hoping the AI won’t magically pull of something amazing for the umpteenth time. Frustrating. Not fun.
THTouch is a huge breath of fresh for me as far as Hold’em games go, and will be the same for anyone who spends a whole dollar to buy it. Why? Because it just feels right. It’s extremely difficult to nail down a realistic AI in poker games, and THTouch has done just that. At first I was going to nag on the fact that there’s no multiplayer built in, but this game feels like you’re playing against real people!
In real poker games with friends, there are generally plenty of hands with free rounds and low betting before the flop. There are also generally plenty of folds when you decide to bust out a huge bet in the beginning of the game! THTouch takes the subtle nuances of the casual Hold’Em game, and integrates them perfectly into an extremely polished and enjoyable poker experience. If you and your opponents have junk and you check the bet, chances are they will keep checking as well, until the pokes come out for the final bet. As with real players, the AI appears to be much more cautious in bluffing than most games, which I appreciate considering there’s know way to tell if a computer isn’t telling the truth! The AI is one of the most important parts of any card video game, and THTouch nails it right on the head better than any Texas Hold’em game I’ve ever played.
But of course, there’s more to this game than great AI. The presentation is extremely smooth and clean. Graphics for dealing cards are great, and there’s a sliding in-game menu for changing settings and such. Unfortunately, much to my dismay, there is no in-game help. It is a HUGE pet-peave of mine when, in order to learn how to play a game, I have to click a link, leave the game, and dive into some web page on my tiny iPhone screen. Not fun. Never will be. Is it that hard to integrate help into the game itself?
The reason I mention the help being an issue, is that THTouch uses a great new method of inputting commands. Before I read the help, I was mindlessly swiping and poking trying to get the first hand to be dealt. After reading help, I was instantly able to pick things up. Basically, you touch and hold your finger to the screen, and a circular contextual menu pops up. You then swipe your finger in the direction of the command you want to give. At first, your fingers will get in the way of reading certain menu items, which is a minor inconvenience. However, after just a few games, you won’t even need to wait for the menu to pop up before swiping and making your move. There’s even an option to remove the menu wheel altogether, but if you simply swipe your finger before it shows up, you don’t have to deal with it, and your action choice will still input fine.
One thing I have found incredibly cheesy in poker games are videos of your opponents. This seemed cool with the Apple version, but gots old extremely fast. THTouch takes to the classic top down style of play, with the option to choose a black or green table style. There is very little wait as your opponents are making their decisions, and the gameplay itself is tight and quick. The game automatically saves your current state when you quit to home, and welcomes you back to continue your game next time you launch it.
Betting in THT is easy, but still realistic. You can call a bet by swiping to the right, or swipe up to see your chip stack. You have a separate stack for 1s, 5, 10s, 25s, and 100s. You can tap a stack to increase your bet by one chip, or you can touch and drag up or down to quickly bet a lot of that valued chip. You then swipe up to bet. To go all in, you simply swipe up with two fingers, and then swipe up again to confirm. Once again, I didn’t know this until I read the help on the THT website, so I recommend doing so, as annoying as it may be.
On a final note, THT also offers an interesting “cheat” option, as the help page refers to it. If you touch and hold you finger on the bottom of the screen where the game prompts you to check, bet, etc, the words will change color based on the statistical chance you have at winning the hand. This is an interesting feature, since it doesn’t give you outright percentages or stats for all your opponents hands, but rather a generalization based on color. Green for a good chance, red for bad, and other colors in between. I didn’t find this feature all too helpful, but I suppose it’s a nice touch. The problem with this feature is that the words are so small that when you hold your finger on them, you can’t really see what the color changed too… due to them being covered… by your finger. Yeah… and no, I don’t have fat fingers, thank you very much!
Presentation & Graphics:
Very clean, and extremely polished. Smooth animations and pleasant artwork. Beauty in simplicity at it’s finest. Could have used some more display options though, and being forced to quit the game and launch Safari for some simple help pages is laaaaaame.
Other than a shuffling sound and a little knock sound for adding chips, there’s not much else. A few more sound effects, and maybe even some relaxing background music would have really rounded out an otherwise superb package. Quite frankly though, sound doesn’t matter much in card games. In fact, I didn’t even notice it until I got to the this section of the review summary.
The most realistic and enjoyable Hold’Em game I’ve ever played. Surprisingly intuitive controls. Maybe it’s just that it takes a more casual approach than other versions, but whatever the method may be, THTouch does it extremely well. I would recommend a little popup for the “cheat” option.
Because it’s a Hold’Em game that doesn’t rub failure in your face for not being an expert Poker player, I’m thinking this game will definitely get played quite a bit by casual card gamers. There’s no multiplayer or leader boards, but honestly, this game is good enough to stand up on it’s own pretty dang well.
This game is absolutely top-notch. There are tons of Hold’Em clones out there, and competition is fierce. For the developers sake, I really hope a large amount of people read this review and pick up this game. It’s simple, intuitive, and the most fun I’ve ever had with a virtual card game; and it’s 99 cents! For those waiting for a Hold’Em game that actually feels like playing against normal human players, do not pass this one up. You won’t be dissappointed. As far as my personal iPhone is concerned, Apple’s version is out, and THTouch is in!
Game Site: http://thtouch.leberwurstsaft.de
Video: Click here to check out a gameplay video on YouTube!