Ever wondered what it'd be like to participate in a high-stakes game of Texas Hold'em? Well, wonder no more. Pure Hold'em, developed by VooFoo Studios, is a realistic simulation of the popular card-based game. It follows in the tradition of previous titles from the Birmingham-based developer, including Pure Pool and Pure Chess, offering its audience a combination of accessibility and difficulty.
It achieves this mixture through its wide breadth of tournaments, each with their own varying degree of challenge. New card players are encouraged to play in the Joker and Jack tournaments. These events require a minimal level of skill and are helpful for those who are in need of a quick refresher course. By earning some money from these you can then afford to buy a place at the much harder tables, including the Queens, Kings, Aces, and Masters events.
The offline games in Pure Hold'em are often just as compelling as the online features. In these events you're matched with seven random AI that boast different styles of play. A short bio acts as a primer, giving you the right information to be able to read the movements of your competitors correctly. For example, one AI in the game can be read because they are notoriously frugal and don't take risks, while another is predictable due to their flamboyant personality. Matching your own style of play to utilise and exploit these traits is an interesting mechanic that is implemented well within the game. It goes some way to recreating the sensation of playing with real people.
But online tournaments are understandably the game's biggest draw. It allows you to take on a group of strangers with the objective being to eliminate them from the table. These are quite challenging to take part in. Success varies depending on your ability to bluff and spot a winning hand. At the moment, the waiting times for these events are quite long due to the relatively small player base. Nevertheless, they are still impressive to play. Hopefully these times can be reduced in the coming weeks by an influx of newcomers.
This problem with finding players does not extend to the other online modes. You can enter and exit the exhibition matches with significant ease. This is useful for beginners who just want to test out the online features without committing to the longer waiting times.
One particular oversight on behalf of the developer is the inability to see when players view their cards. This would introduce a new layer of involvement that would offer an insight into the mind-set of the other competitors. Unfortunately this is replaced in the game with a dull loading bar that fills up as the player decides whether to check or fold.
As expected, the game also allows you to host your own tournaments and invite your friends to play. This is a great feature that acts as a fairly adequate alternative to organising a real life poker night at a friend's house. All you'll need is a pencil and pad to keep score for when you want to collect your winnings.
An aspect that the developer's particularly enthusiastic to promote is the detailed graphics. This polish sets the game apart from its browser-based equivalents that are usually cheaply made and ugly to play. The level of attention is a welcome addition that firmly establishes the title as a high quality product. The presentation is easy to understand with no hidden menus and all of the possible actions on screen at all times alongside their corresponding buttons. In spite of this display, the screen never feels cluttered with information and retains a clean layout for you to navigate.
Not content with the amount of material already included, the developer has also implemented customisation for those who want to change the deck of cards that they are using or the types of chips on the table. You can also alter cloth patterns and cloth colours. This offers some player choice, but adds very little overall. The only practical effect that this has is to replace some decks that are harder to read due to their elaborate designs.
Another layer to the presentation is the music, which can be changed using R3 on the controller. The game features a vast array of genres, which provide an inoffensive backdrop to proceedings. These genres include jazz, hip-hop, and funk, among others. The best thing to be said about these is that they never become annoying or overstay their welcome, though none of them are particularly noteworthy.
Pure Hold'em is an impressive recreation of the popular card game. It features a high level of polish, as well as a multitude of modes. Whether you're a beginner or a more advanced player the game is an enjoyable title to spend some time with. There are a few negative factors that work against it, such as an unexceptional soundtrack and a couple of missing features here and there, but this will arguably not deter its core demographic.