We were lucky enough to get our hands on an early copy (of the final build) of Dundee-based Developer 4J Studios new single-player poker game Texas Wuggle. The control scheme is based on their critically acclaimed word puzzle game Wuggle, but for the most part, the game plays very much like Texas Hold’em poker. You are first dealt two cards with which to determine your betting and then you have a total of 7 cards at your disposal to form your poker hand. While you cannot raise your bet mid-hand, unlike in traditional Texas Hold’em, you do have the opportunity to swap out cards to try to form a better hand.
You arrange your cards by dragging them around the screen. While the orientation of the cards is not necessarily important, the cards that you are going to use in your hand are. Once you have the five cards you want to use in your hand grouped together, you just sweep your finger across them, “striking them together” to form your poker hand. If you attempt to form an invalid hand, the cards will flash red. The normal poker-hand rankings apply, with two pair earning you the lowest money multiplier and a Royal Flush earning the highest. If you are having some trouble finding a hand, there are some built-in hint systems including pulsating cards and scrolling poker hints that may assist you. If you are unable to form a valid poker hand and you don’t have any bombs (more about these in a second) then you will automatically fold, lose your bet, and the hand will be re-dealt. You start out with three bombs, these can be used to swap out an individual card. You will get a new bomb with every new hand that is dealt, but can only have a maximum of three bombs at any given time.
There are two distinct game modes, Survivor and Spree, each offering a unique game play experience.
In Survivor Mode you are basically racing against a clock to find as many poker hands as you can before the time runs out. Increasingly higher bets are automatically made for you, and in any given deal, depending on how quickly you find a hand, you will win 100%, 50% or 0% of the pot. The faster that you find a valid poker hand, the more money you earn. This mode plays out more like a pattern finding game than real poker, since you don’t really have time to swap out cards in an attempt to form the very best poker hand you can. If you want to earn the most money, you’ll most likely only have time to find whatever hand you can from the cards that were dealt, then it’s a race to get them grouped together so you can strike them. During our play-throughs of the game in Survivor Mode, we were always dealt at least two pair in every hand, negating the need to ever use a bomb to form a valid hand. We should also note that in the rush of Survivor mode, we did occasionally run into issues where our hand would not strike together if one (or more) of the five cards was not oriented vertically. It would be nice if the sensitivity could be tweaked slightly to help recognize horizontally oriented cards as well.
Spree mode has no time limit, but play stops after ten hands of poker, or whenever you run out of money. We especially enjoyed this mode, as it plays more like real poker. You decide how much you want to bet, flicking the chips into the center of the table (very cool effect). Before betting you get to see two of the cards in your hand and based on these cards you decide how much you would like to bet. Within the 10 hands you try to earn as much money as you can. We were having so much fun that we were a little bummed that you only got to play 10 hands, but we can see why this was done. This restriction allows for a proper high score list to see how much money a person can make given the same number of hands. If you want a high score then you have to (as the saying goes) bet big or go home!
In either mode, you begin your “poker adventure” in a back alley game in an old warehouse and you play *and hopefully win) to advance all the way up to the luxurious high roller’s table where the stakes and winning are much higher. You progress to the next level once your bankroll reaches the current table’s “Break Out” limit.
The games graphics are really well done and succeed in creating the perfect look and feel for this style of game. Uniquely illustrated tables for each table location and a worn look to the card edges are just some of the nice little details that 4J Studios have put into the game. The card dragging is smooth and natural. The in-game music was catchy and for the most part the sound effects worked rather well. The one exception being that the clicking noise heard when sliding cards around seemed a bit out of place. If a more appropriate sound effect was used that was more natural and better portrays “sliding cards”, we think it would be less distracting and add to the ambiance of the game. We believe the current sound effect is probably just a carry over from the original Wuggle game. We’d also love to see the addition of Agon, OpenFeint or Plus+ to add global leaderboards and/or achievements to the game, but this would really just be gravy. Ideally we’d love to see a multiplayer mode added in the future.
If you are looking for a hard-core multiplayer Texas Hold’em game, then you should definitely look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more casual, single-player poker game, that’s not just the same-Texas Hold’em game, then Texas Wuggle is certainly worth a look. You can follow the game on Twitter ‘@TexasWuggle’ and when the game launches later this month at a price of just $0.99 you can post screenshots of your high scores online to win a copy of the original Wuggle. Watch the gameplay video below to get a better idea of how the game is played.