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Casino Kid 2 (NES) artwork

Casino Kid 2 (NES) review

"The lifestyle of a high roller must be a difficult one to maintain, for the past year certainly has been a tough one for the Casino Kid. When we last left him, the Kid had just won over $1,000,000 from the vaunted King of the Casino. Now, no doubt because of his exposure to the temptations of Sin City at such a young age, heís almost completely squandered his little nest egg. But even though heís now a pauper, The Kid doesnít let it get him down. He appears in the title screen flashing a br..."

The lifestyle of a high roller must be a difficult one to maintain, for the past year certainly has been a tough one for the Casino Kid. When we last left him, the Kid had just won over $1,000,000 from the vaunted King of the Casino. Now, no doubt because of his exposure to the temptations of Sin City at such a young age, heís almost completely squandered his little nest egg. But even though heís now a pauper, The Kid doesnít let it get him down. He appears in the title screen flashing a bright smile, sporting his trademark white tuxedo, and prepared to take on the world. In fact, thatís exactly what heís going to do. The top gamblers from around the globe, recognizing the Kidís ultimate skill, have challenged him to beat them at their own games. With nothing to lose, the Kid cleans out his bank account, a whopping $200, and sets out to remake his fortune.

Casino Kid 2 offers redemption not only to its main character, but to its development team as well. The inaugural Casino Kid was not without flaws. A cumbersome interface and strict ladder system made finding and challenging competitors a frustrating ordeal. The sheer mass of opponents and severe lack of gaming options resulted in a repetitive experience. Suspicious outcomes led the player to feel the deck was stacked against him from the first deal. No doubt recognizing these faults, the developers made some adjustments: allowing the player to challenge whomever he wants, adding a new game to liven up the mix, and reducing the number of foes.

Without a doubt, though, the most superficial change from the first game has to be the Kidís liberation from the casino. Casino Kid required the player to navigate the Kid around the most cramped labyrinth of a floor design in nonexistence. Not only did you have to wander aimlessly to find an obscure and unmarked adversary, but your path would often be completely obstructed by wide-bodied cocktail waitresses. These dolts, having no sense of obligation to clear the way, would cause seemingly interminable delays in the Kidís search. In Casino Kid 2, however, the situation has changed drastically. Opponents are chosen directly from a world map, which lets you spend your time gambling instead of trudging.

In addition to being exponentially more convenient, the new setup allows for a rudimentary geography lesson and means your opponents will have unique ethnic names. No longer will the Kid have to toil against generic players like Jack, Tom, or Ted. Now, he can challenge Ryo Mishima, Japanís stern poker ace. He can travel to Russia to take down comrade Nikorai Bunin, complete with a thick beard and fur cap. Or he can traverse the Atlantic to battle Englandís monocle-wearing Paul Kieton, ace roulette dealer and Mr. Peanut look-alike. Although youíll only see their faces, almost every one of these intimidating shysters has similarly unique quality on display. These countenances work as more than decoration, though; reading the range of your opponentís expressions serves as a useful insight into his performance. The more reticent gamblers show no more than a frown or a small smile, but the more emotional of the bunch make these wonderfully distorted faces. Not only will these tells aid in your victory, but itís also entertaining to watch your victim melt into agony as you pocket his last dollars.

As a second illustration of the Kidís new jet setting freedom, you are not required to bankrupt his opponents in any particular order. The previous game used a repressive ladder system; the elite gamblers would continually reject your challenges until you defeated lowlier players. In Casino Kid 2, as long as you can afford the ante, the Kid can step up and take on whomever he likes. Whether you play even up against the smallest fry or go short-stacked against the biggest fish is all up to you. Granted, this change may seem insignificant; it has nothing to do with the main attraction of the game. However, allowing the player to be conservative or reckless in choosing opponents typifies the spirit of a proper casino game; itís all about how many risks you want to take.

Youíll be taking those risks in three games of chance. Blackjack and five card draw poker resurface from Casino Kid, and the new attraction is the spinning wheel of roulette. Blackjack receives the most realistic treatment in Casino Kid 2. It feels much like a tutorial, forcing the player to learn the nuances of blackjack in order to develop sound, winning strategies. The beginning action is very basic, but as you go up against the tougher dealers, the programming slowly introduces more and more opportunities to pull off more advance maneuvers. You canít grasp victory through luck alone; gaining a feel for when to hit, stand, split, and double-down is the only way to effectively clean out the bank accounts of the tougher players. This really creates an enthusiasm for blackjack within the player, and youíll feel like a competent gambler after beating the game.

Poker, on the other hand, feels much more artificial, although not as much as in Casino Kid. In the preceding game, the deck seemed fixed. Extraordinary hands popped up far too often, and the hands of the two players had a strange affinity to mirror each other. Whether you were holding nothing, two pair, or a full house, it was a good bet that your opponent possessed equal cards. This basically meant that all strategy was thrown out the window; knowing you were likely playing heads-up led to blindly betting every hand. In Casino Kid 2, though, efforts were clearly made to make the outcomes more random, as it should be. Junk hands predominate, and the odds of seeing a miraculous hand are long. Without the ability to immediately place your opponent on a hand, learning to read his actions and gaining a feel of when to bet or fold are aspects important to victory. However, more than any other game in Casino Kid 2, the outcome of poker is reliant on luck, making it the least worthwhile experience in this video game.

Finally, the player receives a novel introduction into roulette, which is making its debut in the Casino Kid world. While the general premise of roulette is widely known, many people are ignorant of the intricacies of this game, so Casino Kid 2 does its part to teach through experience. Replicating the roulette table at any typical casino, the game allows the player to place any type of bet: straight-up, street, line, etc. Even the payoffs for all these different types of bets are inline with reality. However, the brand of roulette found in Casino Kid 2 is only fantasy. Realizing that playing a guessing game against a random number generator would have limited appeal and inconsistent results, the developers decided to make it a more predictable affair.

They accomplished this by transforming CK roulette into a game more about memory and less about chance. In CK roulette, the dealer knows the outcome of the spin beforehand and will give you a hint where the ball will settle. This tip isnít exactly precise; at best it will only limit the possibilities to a few numbers or even just a color. However, itís enough to place you at a significant advantage. While winning is the ultimate high, having that knowledge and control robs you of any real heart-stopping excitement. Even more than with blackjack, CK roulette serves mostly as a primer for the inexperienced gambler.

As the cartridge serves as an excellent learning tool, Casino Kid 2 is not particularly difficult. Only three people stand in your way per game, a significant decrease from the sixteen total roadblocks in Casino Kid. With the odds heavily stacked in your favor, it only requires a little persistence to bulldoze over the competition. Unfortunately, these short, enjoyable matches are more than offset by the gargantuan task that follows. After you clear the underlings out of the way, the flamboyant King of Casino appears. The Kid has to beat the King at every game, which seems exciting at first. After all, the King has a ton of money, and humiliating him all around will thoroughly prove your dominance.

The problem, however, is all that money. Draining his coffers takes a good amount of time, especially since the King steadfastly refuses to wager all of his money at once, a gambit that effectively shortened previous encounters. The ordeal will most likely take longer than all the other nine matches combined, and it becomes increasingly repetitive. Not only will you tire of the give and take of gambling, but the music will begin to grate on you as well. A touch sinister and exotic, it was bearable in small doses, but now itís incessantly drilled into your ears. Even worse, thereís no option to save in between games with the King, so you either have to finish him off or start from the beginning of the bout. If you do manage to stick it out and beat the game, no doubt youíll feel not satisfaction but relief, a sensation that wonít exactly bring you back begging for more.

In the end, though, the lack of replay value isnít an overly bothersome fact; itís apparent that Casino Kid 2 wasnít designed to satiate the hardcore gamblerís need for risk and reward. Instead, itís a game for beginners, offering a fun introduction and gentle learning curve for some of the most common games of chance. Considered in this context, it ably accomplishes its goal. Once the player gains a rudimentary understanding of the games involved, Casino Kid 2 can offer nothing but the same tests that become less challenging with each repetition. As with gambling, once youíve busted one mark, you have to move onto the next.

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Community review by woodhouse (May 10, 2004)

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