While Farsight Studios are most well known to PS Vita fans everywhere for their stunning recreation of modern and classic pinball tables in their ongoing Pinball Arcade series, they’ve been responsible for far more games over the years. They first brought pinball to the PSP with Williams Pinball Classics and Gottlieb Pinball Classics which eventually formed the basis for the aforementioned Pinball Arcade, but one of their major early releases was the international hit Hard Rock Casino…
First thing you need to do is to create a player avatar that you’ll have to use throughout the game as you explore the various casino locations on offer. I have to be honest and say that this was functional at best and only offered a handful of basic character templates, each with a limited number of facial and clothing options. If you’re hoping to be able to create a rough facsimile of yourself here you may as well forget it. It doesn’t give you a particular good first impression of the game being blunt, but fortunately this is the game’s only real weakness and it does rapidly improve after this.
There are several game modes on offer but the main thrust of play is based around the Adventure Mode. It’s not as daunting as it sounds but essentially you’re given an opening stack of $1,000 and placed straight in the heart of the Hard Rock Casino with a virtual friend as a guide. You’re free to tour the casino at will and play any of the multitude of games on offer from table-based games such as craps, roulette, baccarat and so on, to the incredible array of slots available in their own dedicated area., some quite complex and offering multiple win lines to match even most hardened online games Each game, including each individual slots machine, allows you to adjust the amount you bet and captures the look and feel of a vegas casino without the sweaty, obnoxious loud-mouthed gamblers standing next to you bragging about their latest winnings. It’s the best of both worlds in the palm of your hand!
Want more? That’s not all the game has to offer. In this Adventure Mode you are set different challenges for different games in the casino. Accomplish these and new casinos are unlocked for you to explore, each with their own new visual themes and fresh challenges prolonging the lifespan of the game. That lifts the game further. Adding even more depth is the Tournament Mode, allowing you to compete in a range of games in a series of knockout stages.
Still not satisfied? You can even play a number of games against your PSP owning friends locally using the console’s ad-hoc mode and if you only have a single copy of the game between you that’s still not a problem as it’s one of the titles that supports game sharing. It really does seem to offer something for everyone.
Visually it’s not stunning although the casino itself does look the part, when it gets down to the games themselves they do look a little uninspiring compared to what the PSP is capable of. Sound is functional, but the accompanying speech is passable and at least isn’t grating. It’s fun to play although I did find that there were times when the AI didn’t seem to make a great deal of sense and seemed to be confused over the rules of the games being played in the table area. In one game of Blackjack I participated in there was a challenge to make 10 correct plays in a row but I was penalised for accepting an extra card when I only held an 8 and a 2 because statistically another card was making a dangerous call. Go figure! It made that particular challenge feel like it could be achieved through guesswork rather than anything else.
Considering it’s pedigree and the fact that it’s making use of the prestigious Hard Rock Café license it’s no surprise that this was going to turn out to offer such a diverse and well balanced selection of games. Despite the few gripes and minor issues with some aspects of it, it’s still the best the PSP has to offer in the genre and certainly has enough variety to keep you coming back time after time. A surprisingly good game and well worth tracking down.
At A Glance
- Title: Hard Rock Casino
- Publisher: Farsight Studios
- Format: UMD / Digital (US only)
- Multiplayer: Yes
- Game Sharing: Yes