Whether you call it 21, Pontoon or Blackjack, anyone who’s owned a pack of playing cards or has been to a casino should be familiar with the card game. But just in case you’re unaware, the aim is to make a total of 21 from the cards dealt to you by the dealer, or at the very least have a higher total than the dealer at the end. Your options are to draw more cards to increase the total or stand/stick with what you’ve got, ensuring you don’t go bust by going over 21. Why am I explaining this? Well, simply because it’s the card game at the heart of Super Blackjack Battle II Turbo Edition.
Super Blackjack Battle II Turbo Edition is the original creation of the Spain-based development team Stage Clear Studios, who are probably best known for working on Yesterday Origins and helping to port a multitude of games over to different platforms. Their latest game is one that’s been heavily inspired by the beat ‘em up experiences of the ’90s and looks to gather a whole load of hero type characters, all in aid of finding out who is the best of the best… at Blackjack.
Merging these arcade fighters with the world of Blackjack is a strange concept, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work – hell, there’s been much crazier mash-ups over the years. So is it time to put down those gloves and instead pull up a chair for some exhilarating card antics in Super Blackjack Battle II TE?
Absolutely bloody not.
After loading up the game, you’re momentarily intimidated by a menacing chap shuffling a deck of cards aggressively, so you know he means business. Once past the title screen, there are three game modes to choose from; Single Player Combat, Simply Blackjack, and Party Mode. It’s best to start with the solo campaign offering of Single Player Combat.
It’s here where the main inspirations become clearer – it’s definitely Street Fighter – with a worldwide map to travel around and a roster initially featuring a selection of 10 different characters to choose from. There’s the Aussie surfer dude Luke, the South African warlord Greg, and the Japanese lady seeking vengeance, Kamiko, to name just a few. The global representation is certainly on-point, but aside from post-match cheesy text dialogue and the individual endings, it really doesn’t matter who you choose and the stories aren’t exactly enthralling.
You’ll go toe to toe with each competitor – one at a time – across ten rounds of Blackjack and the winner after the final round is whoever has the most money in the bank. The money is akin to health, so if either of you loses it all before the last round, that player is defeated. Both players start matches with $1000, so it’s an even footing in that sense, and you can bet anywhere between $50 and every single dollar you possess on a hand, in order to double that in return by beating the dealer.
Essentially, you’re just playing a regular game of Blackjack, hoping your fellow A.I. player bankrupts themselves before you do. Now, that’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but it’s even less fun when the A.I. plays like a lunatic. Dumb doesn’t come close to how stupid the A.I. is, betting huge portions of their money, before doing crazy stuff like sticking and ‘playing it safe’ on a grand total of 6 or taking a hit when they’re already up to 19. It’s senseless, leaving you to play cautiously and wait for the opponent to inevitably run out of money or blow it a huge lead needlessly. There’s no challenge, hell, you barely need luck; hence it becomes pretty pointless.
A full run through with one character should take no longer than half an hour, and then it’s a case of hoping there’s more life in the other modes. SPOILER ALERT: There isn’t.
Simply Blackjack is as straightforward as it sounds; just you, a dealer and some chips (not the edible kind). The goal is to accumulate money and that’s it really, with more given upon losing the lot if necessary. At least the final mode, Party Mode, allows up to four gamers to share your misery locally, because if you have to play Super Blackjack Battle II TE, why should they get away with doing something else more enjoyable. There are only ten rounds per match, so it’s over pretty swiftly, however it’s lacking in customisation to make games shorter, longer, or to alter the rules in some way, which would add a smidgen of longevity. In all seriousness though, the option to be able to pass the controller around instead of requiring one each, is a good call.
The major aspects of Super Blackjack Battle II TE that stick out as a positive are in the aesthetics and the music, both of which really do pay homage to the classic fighters. The visuals aren’t great for today’s standard, but you’d be forgiven for believing this is a game that has been plucked straight out of the ’90s; even more so when the synthesiser kicks in for the soundtrack. I do appreciate the effort to create suitable backgrounds for matches taking part in the different locations too. It’s easy to tune out of the Blackjack game and take in the surroundings instead, seeing the French setting feature wine and croissants, the ‘sugar’ covered table of Colombia and the heavily-guarded hut of South Africa, all playing host to the match-ups.
Overall then, Super Blackjack Battle II TE is a love letter to arcade beat ‘em ups in terms of its style and sound. That’s about as far as it goes though, with little in terms of excitement, no longevity and just boring old Blackjack to keep you company. Worst of all, the A.I. ruins any chance of finding fun or a challenge, thanks mostly to its pure stupidity and lack of understanding. It’s like playing against my Nan after a Sherry or five.
Being priced at under a tenner might sound tempting, but Super Blackjack Battle II Turbo Edition is no bargain and I’d steer clear of it unless you want to bore yourself to death.