The free demo for this awesome poker-based roguelike is closing in January, and I legit don't know how I'll cope

  • Celeste Melville
  • Dec 27, 2023
  • 223
The free demo for this awesome poker-based roguelike is closing in January, and I legit don't know how I'll cope

There's a unique thrill that comes from discovering a game you crave playing every night, a way to wind down after a full day. That's precisely what happened to me two weeks ago when I stumbled upon Balatro, an intriguing roguelike deckbuilder that takes classic poker rules and transforms them into something wildly innovative. Since its discovery, not a single evening has passed without me indulging in a series of hands, fully immersed in the game's challenges. My fascination doesn't end when I step away from the game; I find myself often caught up in watching others navigate its complexities online.

What's remarkable is that Balatro still needs to be fully released. The version that has captivated me is merely a complimentary demo available on Steam. However, there's a bittersweet twist - this demo is set to become unavailable as the calendar flips to January 1, leaving my Steam Deck temporarily redundant.

Yet, the situation isn't entirely disheartening. February's Steam Next Fest is slated to bring a new iteration of the Balatro demo, promising an even more refined gaming experience thanks to the collective input from the nearly 100,000 players who've downloaded the current version. LocalThunk, the developer behind the game, has acknowledged the tremendous feedback from the community, expressing enthusiasm about incorporating players' valuable insights to enhance the game.

The Balatro demo is an enthralling journey starting with a simple deck of cards, where you craft poker hands to meet a progressively challenging quota. Winning rounds accrue currency, which can be used in the in-game shop to purchase magical joker cards. These jokers have the power to alter the game's rules and scoring system in exciting ways.

Illustrating the game's depth, purchasing a specific joker could mean needing just four cards to complete a straight or flush instead of the usual five. Another joker might offer a score multiplier for each club card played. A particularly clever "blueprint joker" can duplicate the abilities of another joker, leading to some staggering point combinations that are essential as the victory requirements escalate rapidly.

Shops also peddle consumable cards, which can further enhance the deck in wild, unexpected ways. In one notable session, my deck evolved to hold eleven identical King of Hearts cards, significantly aiding my quest to achieve four-of-a-kind hands. Balatro also offers different starting decks for unlocking, such as a deck devoid of face cards. While it might initially seem disadvantageous, pairing it with a joker that provides benefits for avoiding face cards can lead to a spectacular strategic advantage.

Ever so often, a boss round emerges, putting a twist on the usual gameplay by imposing specific restrictions, such as banning discards, applying debuffs, or prohibiting the play of straights. These are the elements that contribute to Balatro's allure, along with the stunning artwork, fluid animations, and engaging soundtrack. It's partly why the impending temporary absence of the game is met with a hint of melancholy. My only recourse is to immerse myself in the game as much as possible before the demo's hiatus.

For those uninitiated, there's still time to experience the Balatro demo before it vanishes. It's an invitation to delve into a strategic world where poker meets magic and where the score isn't just a number but a testament to your crafted synergy of cards. As January approaches, I take comfort in the other games waiting on my Steam Deck, but none seem to captivate me quite as Balatro has.

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