Reviewed: March 5, 2008
Released: April 10, 2007
At first glance, Arctic Stud: Poker Run may appear to be just another combat-racing game, but with just one race under your belt you quickly realize that Got Game Entertainment has packaged at least two games into one box. Developed by Game Refuge, Arctic Stud offers players the opportunity to not only ride snowmobiles, but also do a little gambling while theyíre at it.
Players select from a multitude of characters and jump into one of several game types. Just like any other combat-racer, Arctic Stud comes off the line with guns blaziní. What sets this game apart is its poker ties. Each player must collect cards in order to build the ultimate poker hand before reaching the finish line. Unfortunately for you and your competition there are several obstacles that can get in the way of doing so.
For anyone who has played the arcade classic Arctic Thunder, you will feel fairly comfortable with the controls of the snowmobile and its weaponry. For those who love poker, then you will enjoy this unique take on the beloved card game.
Any gamer from young to old can sit down at their PC and play. The controls are well defined, yet simple for anyone to understand and pick up. Although it may take a few runs through a race to figure out a solid strategy Arctic Stud delivers good fun for the whole family. The controls are fairly standard with the arrow keys doing most of your work. A few keystrokes with the opposite hand and youíll be firing down the opposition with machine guns, missiles, a dual chain gun, snowballs, or dropping toxic sludge. The trickiest part comes when you start collecting your hand. As you approach un-held card on the track you will need quick reflexes to ensure that no one else steals the one that will give you the better hand. After collecting the best hand possible a quick trip to the finish line will start a ninety second countdown to the end of the round. All other players must cross the finish line within that time limit in order for their hands to be eligible to take the pot. At anytime throughout the race, any competitor can bump more money onto the table, or can even go all-in with a killer hand. For those who canít seem to grab the right cards, thereís always the option to fold.
Arctic Stud offers a large array of characters, from a lumberjack named Jack, to a Russian named Karl Bratslinger. As you play through the game and earn more money, more characters become available for your choosing. As far as courses, it works about the same. As you win more, you will unlock new courses. The unlockables alone should keep you busy for quite awhile given that the game play can get rather intense.
The game modes allow you to choose between tournament play or a select number of runs/ races. During tournament play each player starts with a specific bank of cash and works to eliminate his or her opponents just as in a poker tournament. In the other modes, racers try to earn the most money in order to claim victory.
The game tracks your record throughout each hand and gives a short synopsis of your career at the game selection menu. Speaking of the menus, they are extremely simple and very easy to navigate giving any player the ability to play through the game without any headaches.
Arctic Stud does offer online play as well as its single player game mode. Upon joining the only online server that I could find, I realized that I was in very limited company as far as the online community was concerned. There were five other players present, so the game was still rather competitive. After each round, the winner became ďthe dealerĒ and chose the rules of the upcoming race. One major difference from single to multiplayer was the amount of missile being used. I seemed to find myself the target of what seemed like infinite blasts. It was rather frustrating, but it did make for sweet victory when I could manage a win. From what I saw there wasnít any conversing between players and the load times could be slow at times, but all in all the experience was quite enjoyable online.
Arctic Stud: Poker Run offers a fun for all ages experience that most could enjoy for a fairly adequate time frame. To me the game is one that I could see quite a few people getting hooked on as it is an awkward title that offers a fresh idea in a world of recycled video game designs.
Graphically, Arctic Stud brings a cutesy, cartoon animation feel to the table that is quite easy on the eyes. The graphics arenít overly flashy or high-res by any means, but they arenít many glaring problems either. The only real complaint that I have about the graphics engine is the 2-D flat looking grass and trees that dot the racing environment. From a distance they look fine, but up close you will encounter some paper thin foliage that leaves a little to be desired if you are a graphics junkie.
I did run into one glitch in which I got stuck on a bridge and couldnít move my snowmobile. Seeing that I had a full house and had pushed myself all-in, I was a little frustrated, but I never encountered the issue a second time.
The soundtrack portion of the game was the one thing that really worried me before playing. In my past experience with combat racing games and poker games alike, the sounds have been quite boring. Fortunately, Arctic Stud bucks that trend with its wonderful bluegrass/ country menu and game play tunes. The explosions from rockets and the splatter of gun fire arenít frequent enough to spoil the music during game play, so the sounds didnít feel over-used or repetitive. The characters in the game will add an occasional comment, but for the most part the music is the main portion of the games sound, which I think is a definitely plus.
Arctic Stud is a game that can be played for as little as ten or fifteen minutes to as long as hours on end. From a short game to multiple tournaments, Arctic Stud offers players a game that they can get into and have fun with and not have to do much thinking. Although it can become frustrating when an opponent takes your cards, it also adds to the thrill of blasting him with a missile and making him drop his hand (especially if he has a card you need).
The multiplayer format offers a significant challenge to anyone who may happen to find single player too easy. In my experience, the online games were winnable, but far more difficult given the talent level of the other players. The multiplayer alone, in my opinion, makes the game well worth its modest price tag of $19.99.
To summarize my experience with Arctic Stud, I would use the words addicting and revengeful. Not only did the sheer competition keep me wanting more, but the glorious feeling of bombarding an enemy with a few missiles really makes you feel good. All in all, I think the game is well worth picking up to play. I felt anyone of any age could enjoy what it brought to the table. In my eyes, Arctic Stud could become a sleeper hit that not many people hear about. The game play isnít over the top, but it delivers a fresh feel and idea to your PC. I doubt that anyone would be completely disappointed with Arctic Stud upon purchase. So hurry out to your local game store and check out a copy. In minutes you will find yourself either running for your life, or chasing someone for theirs.