Love poker but never been able to (legally) exercise your cheating ways? Wideload Games and D3 Publisher bring you Texas Cheat ‘Em, a game that encourages you to swap cards, steal chips and have a peak at someone else’s hand. With all these dirty tricks in play this is not a game for hold ’em sticklers and aficionados, but a game of twists to draw a new crowd to the hold ’em table.
Unfamiliar with hold ’em? No worries, there is a wordy tutorial to walk you through. Likewise, the game offers a guide for the rules of Cheat ‘Em, which follows the basics of hold ’em and then breaks all the rules with fifteen available cheats. One primary difference outside the cheats is the splitting of the pot, which goes to the top three hands in descending order.
A good game of poker may not rely on a pretty interface, and Cheat ‘Em’s looks like a browser-based flash game. The sound is mediocre, and at its best the presentation gives the impression that you have stumbled into a well-worn casino on a Sunday morning in a dry town. Set over generic wallpaper is the game table, around which players’ 2D avatars are displayed. Community cards and pot are at the center of the table, with your cards above your avatar. Your chip count is beneath your character and the game automatically creates your optimal hand and displays it beneath your chip count. This is a handy feature when your opponents are perpetually using their cheats to alter community cards. There are other bits and bobs like a dealer button indicator and a countdown (each round of betting is timed), and on the lower right is the menu for playing the hand with options like check, bet, fold and call.
On the right is the cheat board where you choose a cheat and play the corresponding mini-game. On the left is your your tell meter, a thermometer that gauges your excitement – a good guide for those less familiar with the strength of a hand. You can conceal your tells with a mini-game, or even give a false tell. When a player is cheating, their 2D character will display a “Cheating” stamp, though you will not always be able to to tell what cheat they are using. Now picture all of this going on at once, and words like “muddled” and “chaotic” come to mind. At the end of each hand there is a Game Over screen showing which players came out on top and their respective gains and losses. This screen adds a superfluous arcade feel and interrupts the flow from hand to hand.
Using cheats requires both cheat points and the successful completion of a mini-game. A handful of the mini-games are carnival style gambling like the horse race where you button mash to outpace the competition and steal their chips. These sorts of cheats are called “attacks”, and you will have to play them defensively as well as offensively. Other mini-games include a hand of blackjack, a slots game and one that has you try to line up an arrow with a gold band on a roulette wheel. My least favorite are the pure luck ones, like the cheat that allows you to win a hand if the dice rolled exceed eleven.
Practice mode allows you to set a game against AI to your liking, but the single player Career Mode is the offline focus. Career has you playing through four suit-named circuits with a handful of challenges in each. Objectives are typically tasks like beating a certain player or having the most chips. Money earned does not advance your career, there is nothing to purchase – and the only thing worse than virtual money is worthless virtual money. In the single player the AI operates as slowly as human counterparts, which can make for some slow games with the likes of “Ned Nerdlinger”. In the early career games you will be able to cheat pretty freely with little fear of repercussion. Online, however, up to eight players can join a game and the cheats run rampant. You may, however, have difficulty finding people to play with; each time I played there were only a couple of active, sparsely populated, tables.
A little late to the Texas hold ’em craze of half a decade ago, Cheat ‘Em brings some fun twists. So many twists that the game is great for people that don’t particularly enjoy the game of hold ’em. Cheats are brazen and rampant, rarely tactical, and you can bleed someone dry with some decent hands and the chip steal cheat. Cheat ‘Em is not pretty, and this is a game best viewed through a haze of smoke, sunglasses, peeking out from under the brim of your visor.