Vegas Games : Midnight Madness
Pair of gambling games reviewed
System Requirements - Pentium 90 or equivalent 16Mb RAM 75Mb hard drive space each DirectX 7.0a sound and graphics cards CD-Rom drive
Apart from in a few more permissive states and counties, gambling in the USA is generally illegal. Thoughtfully, companies like 3DO make games that promise to simulate the whole gambling experience, or "gaming" as they so coyly name it, as best as possible. "You'll experience all the sights and sounds of Vegas in the comfort of your own home!" screams the back of the box.
These two Vegas titles ("Slots & Videos" and "Table Games") share a common interface, with the Table edition, funnily enough, containing seven popular Vegas table games, such as Blackjack, Roullette and Craps, while the Slots & Video collection features five fruit machines and five variations of Video Poker. They are sold separately (although at a mid-range price), so if you were hoping to switch between the two at your leisure you will be sorely disappointed.
And curiously there is no interaction between the two packages - the player cannot share funds between the two games; a very strange ommission when it is painfully obvious that the architecture of the games is nigh-on identical. It would have been interesting to amass a small fortune on the slot machines and then move over to the big leagues of table games with your winnings, but sadly, like so much else, this is not permitted.
The sights and sounds of Vegas that were promised on the box sadly never materialise. Instead you choose your game from a bitmapped menu screen, and then are thrust straight into the "action", without any seeing or hearing of the famous Vegas atmosphere.
This wasn't quite the "midnight madness" that the title promised; it was more gambling for geeks. But what the game does, it does pretty well. All types of poker games are recreated, the rules of all the other games are programmed in full, and there are a few configurable options that allow slightly different styles of play. Using only one deck at the Blackjack table allows a certain measure of card-counting to take place, while six packs maitains a degree of randomness.
The slots, sadly, are virtually identical - the joyless, methodical "insert 1 to 3 coins and press go" kind so beloved by Americans. None of the features, light-ups or other distractions that feature in British games, just the cold, sterile possibility of less trash, more cash. This appears to be a recurring theme throughout the game - extract the glitz and glamour, and bow down to the almighty dollar.
That lack of imagination and fun is also reflected in the graphics. Video Slots are given unimaginitive themes that smack of laziness and cliché - you can almost see the graphic artist groaning at his desk and wishing he was somewhere else.
The sound is equally boring. That ridiculous "music" which only owners of large hotels and casinos deem acceptable for public consumption is piped in throughout (until you turn it off), as are the nasal voices of your dealers, and some "ambience", just to try and fool you that you are among others and having a good time.
It's a statisticians dream, and the manual (thoughtfully provided in Adobe Acrobat format on the CD-Rom, as if to say "Use your own damn paper!") contains several high-falutin' graphs and charts detailing play strategies, chances of winning, and other tricks that might be useful on the real gaming floor, but not here in the virtual world of pixelated dollars.
You can, in theory at least, go on to amaze others with your gambling prowess over the internet using MPlayer or Microsoft software, although both times I checked nobody else was available for play. This didn't really surprise me in the least though.
There isn't even a decent single player mode as such, just player profiles that record your winnings on each table and your total money. There is no chance of advance, and everything is available to you when you start. There is little reason to bother being careful, as if you run out of money you can just borrow $500 from the ATM until you amass enough to pay it back. This can be done repeatedly, with no interest or deadline - I just wish these guys were my bank managers!
Perhaps by including something like a mob of navvies to break your shins if you didn't pay, 3DO could have delivered some of the "midnight madness" that I was looking for, but sadly no...
The Bottom Dollar
There is very little to redeem this title from complete and not undeserved obscurity. It's more like one of those budget "Games For Windows" shareware collections that you see in Woolworths than an actual game.
Vegas Games is a painstakingly accurate recreation of six table games, two types of Keno, slots and video poker, with a nice GUI tacked on top, and possibly useful for brushing up your skills on. It is not really very much fun, and certainly contains no real "madness", except the one that you succumb to when you realise that you just paid good money for this tripe. The madness will only increase when you realise that, just like the real Vegas, you can't win your money back.