Casino Kid (NES) review
"When you first load up Casino Kid, you’ll be greeted -- after a little screen introducing you to the tough world of high-stakes gambling -- with a view that will make you think of an RPG. Bear with me. You can move around and talk to characters in a casino, complete with tacky seventies pink and black checkerboard carpeting and ostentatious indoor plants. But when you first have a little dialogue with fellow casino patrons you’ll begin to suspect that the rich, intense world you had envisioned i..."
When you first load up Casino Kid, you’ll be greeted -- after a little screen introducing you to the tough world of high-stakes gambling -- with a view that will make you think of an RPG. Bear with me. You can move around and talk to characters in a casino, complete with tacky seventies pink and black checkerboard carpeting and ostentatious indoor plants. But when you first have a little dialogue with fellow casino patrons you’ll begin to suspect that the rich, intense world you had envisioned is a fraud. The first woman we question has nothing to say but, “Later, Buddy!” In case you think she’s just unusually reticent, or in a big hurry, talking to other characters will make it abundantly clear: talking to the people on the casino floor is inane and useless. Already, some of the luster we felt upon starting up the game has been scraped away.
But, let’s move on and try to play some games. After all, the Casino Kid ain’t here for chit-chat and jibber-jabber; he’s here to score some cash and walk away with a heavy wallet. So, walk up to a slot machine, let’s try our luck for a quick jackpot and out of here in time to take in a boxing match and a nice dinner, right then…until you realize that no combination of button pressing will make the slot machine in front of you do anything. What you need to understand, and will learn as you play, is the slot machines and roulette tables here at the Golden Crumbs Casino are like a cigar to Will Smith: in his own words, “I just bite it, it’s for the look, I don’t light it.” These machines and tables exist only to continue the illusion that the Crumbs is in fact a casino at all. Indeed, the more you walk all over and press buttons trying to activate a game of chance, the more you’ll begin to fear that this is just a great Las Vegas mausoleum where people come to mill around endlessly until death.
If you stick with things, though, you’ll discover that you have to play against the casino’s dealers in a certain order, and you must accept that a certain (large) amount of time will be spent finding out who the next opponent is and where to find him. But excepting this “exploration” phase, Casino Kid actually offers decent gambling action for the two games it features. On one hand, we have the classic Blackjack. The Casino Kid version isn’t the half-baked blackjack that people program onto their TI-83’s; this is full-fledged 21, with double-downs, split hands, and so on. It’s a realistic rendition, but after a long stretch of this you’ll be begging for something else. If you’re not playing for real money, blackjack gets boring fairly fast.
Luckily, if you play blackjack long enough and well enough, you’ll be given the chance to play Casino Kid’s other offering, Poker. The poker played at the Golden Crumbs is pretty limited -- there’s no hi-lo, no variations at all really -- but it’s entertaining enough for a short time. While the visual interface for both card games is pretty bland, we do get a view of the facial expressions of our opponent, and these are pretty well done. Supposedly, in poker we can use our view of the enemy’s face to tell if he’s bluffing or holding a powerful hand. I never found this feature too helpful, though I admittedly never paid much attention since just following the general odds usually leads you to victory in this game. In fact, neither poker nor blackjack requires a lot of skill; rote, mechanical play will get you far.
Win at poker a few times, and you’ll be thrown into a final match with the Casino King for all the marbles. There’s nothing else to do. It’s a little sad: the two games included here are done pretty well, but that just isn’t enough to provide any fun for the player. The annoying exploration phases only added to my frustration: I tried to visit the casino bar to drown my sorrows but it’s so surrounded by little tables and indoor plants that the poor Kid can’t even approach it.
Aurally, if developer Sofel intended to mimic the forgettable Muzak usually pumped onto casino floors, they succeeded. The single theme used while you’re on the casino floor or playing a game gets annoying because it plays over and over again. The single theme used while you’re on the casino floor or playing a game gets annoying because it plays over and over again. The single…you get the idea. Sound effects used to represent card being shuffled or dealt are adequate, but don’t add much to the game: lack of realism wasn’t the problem with the gameplay to begin with, and putting in realistic sounds predictably fails to cure the malaise that pervades this title.
Suffice it to say that Casino Kid proves an old adage: the fun of casino gambling games isn’t the skillful calculation or accurate employment of odds tables. Nobody screams with joy because they played the odds right and got out of a big pot in a poker game. Indeed, the thrill factor of playing poker and blackjack, or slots, roulette, chemin-de-fer or any other game, in a casino is the thrill of wagering money: the intense satisfaction of coming away ahead or the distinct gloom of loss. No NES game can reproduce that feeling because Nintendo’s little box can’t take your money and won’t pay off your winning chips. In Casino Kid, we see offered a realistic gambling experience, but with the actual gambling taken away.
In the words of the Gambler, you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. There’s no need to run, but a savvy player wouldn’t sit down at the table with Casino Kid.
Community review by denouement (April 16, 2004)
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