For a long while, I was fascinated by casino video games. Maybe since I was too young to actually play at a casino, I figured casino video games would simulate the casino experience without losing loads of money in the process. It’s a shame that nowadays casinos are inundated with digital slots and video poker machines, with maybe a blackjack and craps table here and there. It’s just not the same.
During my teenage years, I was playing one of these casino games, back when I had just gotten the fancy new Game Boy Advance. Though, it was a Game Boy Color game…
Hoyle Casino is a game sponsored by the Hoyle game company, which primarily is a playing card company, though these days they’ve also branched out to publishing digital games based on TV shows like Ice Road Truckers. This game is also unique because it was one of the few games Sierra published for the GBC, with the others being sister title Hoyle Card Games and a version of 3D Ultra Pinball: Thrillride. Hoyle Casino came to other systems, but today I’m looking at the portable release.
Pulsar Interactive worked on this, and they were mostly known for Game Boy games like Barbie Fashion Pack, as well as assisting in Quest for Glory V and Blood & Magic, as well as IBM’s Manage This!, which is not a video game but they were more than proud to feature it on their website.
I figured I played this a bunch because of the aforementioned fascination with casino games. Plus since it was on a portable and this was before everybody had smartphones, it was a great time waster when you had nothing to do, which was fairly common in my high school years.
Now, my gold standard for casino games is Nintendo’s Vegas Stakes – both the original SNES version and it’s Game Boy counterpart – so let’s see if Hoyle Casino is good enough to dethrone the king of casino video games.
We’re introduced to this screen where you create your character, complete with portrait. It’s merely cosmetic, but I decide to go for the classy gentleman portrait for this one.
Hoyle Casino has seven base games in it: Blackjack, Slot Machines, Craps, Roulette, Pai-Gow Poker, Video Poker and just “Poker.” Considering Hoyle is best known for playing cards, I’m not surprised how much poker games are in that.
As I select the Poker option, suddenly I am given a deluge of various choices.
Holy crap, that’s a lot of poker games. They got most of the common ones, including Seven Card Stud that I remember playing in Vegas Stakes, as well as the now-iconic Texas Hold ‘Em, the one type of Poker everyone knows because it was on TV for a long while.
While playing each game, the controls are fairly straightforward: A confirms choices and bets, B changes or cancels any options, Select will give you stats and tips for the game, and Start will give you game options like adjusting game speed and backing out of the game.
The games are faithful to the actual real life casino games, for what it’s worth.
Most of these games like Blackjack and Poker have you play against multiple players. However, you’re playing solo on games like Roulette and Craps, so there’s no suspense or drama involved compared to a packed house. Speaking from personal experience, a packed Craps table is a sight to behold.
Funny, on the Blackjack and Poker games, you’re playing with AI characters with random names and portraits, with no personality between them, so for them to leave this out with those two games is incredibly baffling.
It’s also a shame this game doesn’t have music, but there’s plenty of sound coming through the Game Boy speaker, including a lot of synthesized speech, which is pretty impressive for the handheld. Hearing the dealer call out blackjack, what dice roll you got in craps, or when you’ve won a game is a nice touch, and it’s a fair trade from having catchy ditties play throughout.
The big downside is that there isn’t a whole lot to do outside of the games. What made Vegas Stakes great was the random chance to gain/lose money, or bet on random boxing/horse racing events. There’s no chances here, only winning and losing the respective game. There’s also no end goal, you just keep playing until you run out of cash or get bored. You can play some games with another player with a link cable, but I doubt you’ll find another friend playing Hoyle Casino instead of trying to trade in Pokemon Silver/Gold, so it’s a rather worthless feature.
Vegas Stakes is still the king of casino games, but Hoyle Casino fills a niche that the Game Boy Color didn’t have much of. It’s a competent and fun time-waster, one to look into if you’re into casino games like me. Maybe one day I’ll check out more casino games and see if they hold up compared to Vegas Stakes. These kind of games aren’t talked about much, and they deserve a bigger spotlight.