Poker Hands Review

Slide and merge playing cards to create poker hands, in the minimalist puzzle game Poker Hands!

Format: PC via Steam
First playthrough time: 1.5 hours

Poker Hands. 3 by 4 grid with 3 threes, a queen, and a 9. The goal is to create a 5 card hand with one set.

Released March 26th, 2020 by Minimol Games

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Quick Overview

Major Pros:
  • Simple slide and merge gameplay
Major Cons:
  • Fair amount of randomness
Minor Pros:
  • Clean clear graphics
Minor Cons:
  • 2 levels inaccessible
Poker Hands. An empty 6 by 6 grid with 3 timed goals: beat a full house, beat a set, and beat a pair.

A timed level with multiple goals and no starting cards

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In-Depth Review

Poker Hands is a short puzzle game about sliding and merging poker cards to create traditional poker hands. There are approximately 50 levels with a variety of goals. Some levels specify one or more particular hands (ex. royal flush, two pair) that need to be created to win. Other levels are timed and specify a competing hand that needs to be beaten, said hand becoming harder if the timer runs out.

Poker Hands. A 3 by 5 grid with the cards lined up to make a straight flush of one suit and a quad of another.

Suits are represented by the card background-color

Early levels in Poker Hands have all the necessary cards available in the starting grid. Players must figure out how to maneuver the cards together so they combine into the correct hands. Cards will combine together up to sets of 5. If the resulting hand is a valid poker hand, it will be removed from the board, but if not it will stay permanently and take up space. Cards cannot combine more than 5 and cannot be split once combined.

Poker Hands. A 5 by 3 grid with 2 blocked squares offset from the middle. 3 sevens are lined up along the middle row. The goal is to create 2 sets.

The blocked squares can be used to manipulate the random cards that come in from the sides

Later levels in Poker Hands require players to bring in pieces from off the sides of the board. Faint outlines on the sides show where new cards will appear if the player pulls from that side However the card that will be added is not shown and seems to be largely random. Players also encounter more blocked squares or squares that consume cards and then become blocked, allowing for more careful manipulation of cards to achieve the rarer poker hands required.

Poker Hands. A 4 by 4 grid with 3 kings and a 5. Two squares are tinted red and labeled with zero out of 4 or zero out of 1. The goal is timed and requires creating a hand that beats 2 pair.

Squares that consume cards specify how many they can consume before becoming blocked

I did encounter a few issues with the levels. Levels 47 and 49 seemed to be missing, both from level select and when progressing linearly through the levels. There were also a fair number of levels later on where the best play was to trap the hand the player was building in a safe place and then just pull cards from one side until randoming into the desired card(s). There didn???t seem to be any more intended solution and the levels have no move limit to discourage such a solution.

Poker Hands. Level select with levels 47 and 49 as empty grey boxes

The missing levels are visible on the right of level select

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Recommendation

Overall, I enjoyed Poker Hands as a simple sliding puzzle game. It???s simple and not terribly difficult, but it does have some issues with relying on randomness. I preferred the more logical levels where most of the cards required were already on the board. I recommend Poker Hands for players looking for a short and simple sliding puzzle game.

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