Author Topic: Balatro (Switch) Review  (Read 475 times)

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Offline Oronalex

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Balatro (Switch) Review
« on: February 19, 2024, 06:00:00 AM »

I Can’t Stop Playing Balatro, Send Help

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/66288/balatro-switch-review

Steam Next Fest happened this February and one particular demo took the world by storm: Balatro, an addicting roguelike poker game by way of developer Local Thunk. While I can describe it in genre, it’s hard to describe the effect this game has had on my brain chemistry. I usually game in small bursts, with longer sessions a thing of my childhood. My first session of Balatro was two hours and my second session was three and a half. This game is a real problem for me, in the best way possible.

   So breaking down Balatro is breaking down the basics of poker. With poker, you are trying to make the best 5-card hand, by taking and discarding cards. The special hands you are trying to make are: pairs, three of a kind, four of a kind, two pair, a straight (5 cards in sequential order), full house (three of a kind and a pair), flush (all the same suit) and a royal flush (Ace to 10 all the same suit.) That’s the basic setup but like any good indie game, it takes a well worn premise and turns it on its head.

   The spin to Balatro lies in its roguelike elements. You are playing poker to score points within 4 hands. You play against the small blind, big blind, and the boss, increasing the score necessary to proceed each time. Once you defeat the boss, you go to the next round, with even higher score goals. Between each game, you get rewarded with cash to spend on upgrades that are specific to only that run. Completing more runs and using more upgrades unlocks more variation on decks to play with, which come with their own bonuses, but it’s the upgrades that are key to a successful run.

   The upgrades come in a couple different flavors. You can purchase and hold up to five different Joker cards that are set perks like straights can have gaps, so you have a bigger chance at getting a straight or multipliers for specific cards, like clubs or even numbers. Then there are celestial cards that come in randomized foil packs; these level up your pairs, straights, flushes and other hands. So having a pair can give you two or even three times more points than before. Hands can be leveled up multiple times as well in any single run.

There are also Tarot cards that can adjust cards' suits or copy other cards, and other upgrades that can add bonus effects to individual cards within your deck like holographic effects which add multipliers, or gold plated cards that boost your monetary payout. Lastly you can outright just buy more cards for your deck, so there are higher chances of getting the cards you want. There also are specialty seals for increased gold, effect triggers, or random creation of other cards; I can go on and on.  The tutorials leave something to be desired so you really have to experiment to get the most out of everything possible, but there’s just so much to dig into and mess with that each run feels entirely different, and that’s where Balatro has gripped me most.

I’ve had sick straight runs where I will have a Joker that will allow gaps in my straights, then a second Joker that will give me bonus points for even numbered cards. With that I had also used celestial cards to level up my straights so that each one would be worth more points. I would play a Straight of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10. All even numbers, qualifying as a straight due to my Joker and with straights at level 3, and boom over a thousand points easily. Then on a separate run, I had pairs up to level 5, as well as Tarot Cards found in Arcana packs to double up on specific cards, and finally had enhanced my pairs to give bigger multipliers. It’s an infinite well of possibilities, and each run can change your strategy entirely.

Outside of the rising point thresholds needed to advance, the boss at the end of a level adds a separate negative modifier wrinkle that you have to push through. These can come off as mean spirited but they are just things to plan around. I had an amazing straight-focused run that was put to a screeching halt when a boss would only play my cards face down, so I had no idea what I was playing. Another boss would only let me play a specific hand once, so I had to vary my style up. Of course, I later found a Joker that I could sell to nullify a boss’ modifier. Sure, that would’ve been great LAST RUN! I was mad for all of 30 seconds before I jumped back in for another one. It’s the perfect “one more run” game. Even now, I had to make a declaration to myself that I couldn’t play any more Balatro until this review was written, but let's be honest, my Switch is right next to me ready to go.

Balatro is flat out a smart game. I don’t even like cards! Yet here I am theorycrafting new ways to play. Should I make a full house deck? That might seem risky, but if I use Tarot cards right… no no. Not now. It’s what I’m thinking about when I’m not playing Balatro. A 20-minute round before bed easily turns into, “holy crap, how is it 3AM?” This is even before finishing the game with different decks and daily challenges are turned on!  In generation remix, hell, in generation make-everything-a-roguelike, this may be the best one of 2024. I’m eagerly awaiting the official release just so I can hear about my friends' epic runs. It’s just that good. Now, please, let me play my Balatro in peace. I got an idea for a sick flush strat that I want to try out. So I'll y'all later.


Offline Enner

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Re: Balatro (Switch) Review
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2024, 02:02:47 PM »
Everyone entering their degenerate gambler arc with this game.

Offline EzraCantu

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Re: Balatro (Switch) Review
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2024, 08:48:47 AM »
Can I ask a question about it?

Offline corygarvin

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Re: Balatro (Switch) Review
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2024, 05:24:18 AM »
I will play it in the near future. Maybe I will ask many things about this game :D