For a long while, I was fascinated by casino video games. Maybe since I was too young to actually play at a casino that I wanted to 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. Damn kids don’t know what they’re missing.

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…

Probably the best quality picture I could find. If my box wasn't crushed to hell, I'd just scan mine in.

Probably the best quality picture I could find. If my box wasn’t crushed to hell, I’d just scan mine in.

Hoyle Casino is a game sponsored by the Hoyle game company, which primarily was known as a card company though these days they’ve branched out to publishing digital games based on shows like Ice Road Truckers. This game is also unique because it was one of the few games Sierra published for the GBC, the others being Hoyle Card Games and a version of 3D Ultra Pinball: Thrillride. The game 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.

I guess the makers of Hoyle Casino love supporting identity thieves.

I guess the makers of Hoyle Casino love supporting identity thieves.

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.

This game boasts "hundreds of variations." I'm not seeing hundreds, here.

This game boasts “hundreds of game variations.” I’m not seeing hundreds, here.

Hoyle Casino has seven base games in it: Blackjack, Slot Machines, Craps, Roulette, Pai-Gow Poker, Video Poker and Poker. Considering Hoyle was known for cards, I’m not surprised how much poker games are in that.

So let’s go check the Poker game…

More poker than you knew you needed. Not like it matters since everybody just plays Texas Hold'em these days...

More poker than you knew you needed. Not like it matters since everybody just plays Texas Hold’em these days…

Holy crap, that’s a lot of poker games. They got most of the common ones, including Seven Card Stud which I remember from Vegas Stakes, as well as Texas Hold Em, the one type of Poker everyone knows because it was on TV a whole lot.

These are such great strategies. If you can read them, anyway.

These are such great strategies. If you can read them, anyway.

While playing each game, the controls are fairly straightforward: A usually confirms choices and bets, B changes/cancels options, Select will give you stats and tips, and Start will give you game options like adjusting game speed and backing out of the game.

All this needs a few commentators and I could pretend I'm in the World Poker Tour!

All this needs is a few commentators and I could pretend I’m in the World Poker Tour!

The games are faithful to the actual real life casino games, for what it’s worth. However, you’re playing solo on games like Roulette and Craps, so there’s no suspense or drama involved compared to a packed house. Believe me, 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.

Playing craps by yourself is a depressing sight.

Playing craps by yourself is a depressing sight.

It’s also a shame this game doesn’t have music, but there’s plenty of noise coming through the Game Boy speaker, and a lot of synthesized speech, which is pretty impressive. Hearing the dealer call out blackjack, what dice roll you got in craps, or when you’ve won a game is nice.

Well, at least they knew the future of casino games...

Well, at least they knew the future of casino games…

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 useless feature.

Man, remember when slot machines looked like this and not glorified video monitors?

Man, remember when slot machines looked like this and not glorified video monitors?

Well, it looks like Vegas Stakes is still the king of casino games, but Hoyle Casino fills a niche that the Game Boy Color doesn’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. That might be fun.

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