Whether you're a seasoned gambler or a casual gamer interested in trying your hand at games of chance, Casino offers a realistic look at the world of dice, cards, wager wheels and betting. The first notable aspect of the game is the developers' attention to detail in recreating the actual experience of being in a gambling casino. You choose an avatar from a selection of 30 well-drawn characters, and the others appear as opponents and partners during play.
The interface is built to look like a casino, with different tables for every game, ATMs to check up on finances, and other appropriate surroundings. A multi-player Internet mode is available for those who want to enjoy human competition in a game of poker, as is a high-rollers section that is off-limits until you win at least $50,000 -- no small feat. The interface is clean and consistent. Betting always works the same way, no matter what the game, except in unique cases such as slot machines.
While the advertising is somewhat misleading in its claim of 139 game variations (arrived at by counting the various betting limits on different roulette tables as variations), there is still plenty to see and do in Casino. Nine different versions of poker are available, including the popular Pai Gow and Texas Hold 'Em, as well as several types of slot machines and video poker, Casino War, Red Dog, and Money Wheel among the usual favorites.
A red velvet rope, similar to what one would find in an actual casino, bars access to the high-rollers lounge, and striving to earn access offers quite a challenge. The roulette tables display the last 12 numbers that are drawn by mimicking the two-color vertical displays in service at the more upscale establishments.
Unfortunately, the attention to detail does not extend to the installer, which doesn't seem to run on a DVD drive, takes an inordinate amount of time to execute even on a 52X CD-ROM drive, and demands that the computer be re-started in mid-stream after the mystery message "configuring Windows' installer." But, it's a small flaw and one easily forgivable given the product's overall quality.
The voice acting, though, is less easy to ignore. Although AI opponents can be made talkative, it's not a very good idea, as their lines are repetitive and poorly recorded. After five minutes of play, most gamers will toggle them silent. Other sound effects accurately represent the reality of a casino; whether this is good or bad is very much a matter of taste, especially when it comes to the cacophony in the main lobby area. All of the AI opponents also seem to play with the same strategy, but it's only an issue in a handful of card games, which may seem somewhat insignificant but is disappointing nonetheless.
Learning casino games with Casino is a breeze. An extensive compressed-HTML help file is available for every game, and the walk-through mode overlays rules and suggestions on top of the playing area as the game progresses. Overall, Casino is a strong contender in its category, and well worth the price of admission.
Graphics: Images and characters are nicely drawn, if a bit static. Realistic settings such as the velvet rope help deliver a realistic look at a casino floor.
Sound: The sound effects are accurate, but the voice acting is painful to listen to.
Enjoyment: Good variety of games, plenty of variations, lots to do -- all implemented well.
Replay Value: Good variety in single-player games, and the multi-player option can significantly extend the game's life cycle.
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