Sebastion Mauldin

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Balatro Review

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I’ve never been a gambler. I’m the type that one goes to a casino for a buffet. That is why the concept of Balatro didn’t sound appealing to me at first. Then when the opportunity came to give it a shot I was drawn to it and I never looked back. Balatro is a masterclass in how to hook gamers. This isn’t just a review of Balatro, but this is a warning to those that have something important to do in life at the present. Don’t paly Balatro. This game’s is too good, too addicting, and too powerful. You want get shit done. Trust me. Oh you don’t believe me.

Let’s dive into it.

Oh by the way this is the perfect game to play and watch something especially on the Steam Deck. I did so while watching some old WWE Raw episodes, and unfortunately, it’s making me channel my inner Texas Rattlesnake. So I’m going to do this review Stone Cold Style.

Balatro Review - Image 1
Balatro Review – Image 1

The Narrative:

There isn’t a Narrative so let me tell you about what the game is. 

Here’s the scoop straight from the Store page: The poker roguelike. Balatro is a hypnotically satisfying deckbuilder where you play illegal poker hands, discover game-changing jokers, and trigger adrenaline-pumping, outrageous combos.

Now, who’s behind this masterpiece, you ask? Well, it’s the brainchild of a mysterious developer who goes by the name LocalThunk. Balatro ain’t your run-of-the-mill poker game, no sir. They’ve taken the game and flipped it on its head, adding cards that’ll have you grinning from ear to ear with their rule-breaking antics — all thanks to some serious number crunching. And here’s the kicker: it’s fun for everyone, from Grandma to the young guns. But let me tell ya, if anyone tries to pry me away from this gem, they’re getting a Stone Cold Stunner, no questions asked.

Now, let’s set the record straight: Balatro ain’t just about poker. Sure, knowing your poker lingo helps, but at its core, this is a game of logic. No bluffing, no pots, just the pure thrill of putting together killer poker hands within an electrifying game loop. It taught me a lot about Poker hands sure, but made me use math moreso.

Balatro Review - Image 2
Balatro Review – Image 2

The Gameplay:

Alright, listen up, ’cause ol Sebastion gonna lay it out for ya. Every dang run starts simple. You’re goin’ through a series of levels, they call ’em ‘antes’, each packed with three showdowns, or as they say, ‘blinds’: small, big, and the big boss showdown. Your job in each of these encounters? Rack up a high score in a limited number of hands. And how you score? It’s simple math, son: X times Y. But here’s the kicker, both X and Y are influenced by the hands you’re playin’. The stronger the cards, the stronger the hands, the bigger the points. And just like any top-notch roguelike, you can stack multipliers on top of multipliers, sending those scores sky high. Now, when it comes to the strength of them hands, we’re talkin’ poker rules here. Four of a kind trumps a full house, which trumps a flush, and so on. Winning rounds? That’s your ticket to cash, which you’ll be splurgin’ in Balatro’s shop — and lemme tell ya, that’s where the real game kicks in.

In the shop, you’re splittin’ out your hard-earned winnings for stuff that’ll help you tackle them hefty blinds. Startin’ simple, maybe grabbin’ some planet cards to beef up them multipliers and chip values. Pump up your favorite two pair a few notches, and suddenly, it’s the big deal – even better than three-of-a-kind if you haven’t maxed that one out yet. Stick to them planet cards, and by the end of your run, every hand you’re dealin’ will pack an extra punch. Not too bad.

Then there’s them wildcards, them jokers. These bad boys toss a whole new rulebook at ya. They’re by your side for the whole dang run unless you opt to cash ’em back in at the shop. Typically, you’ve got five in play at a time. A standard joker might toss in a sweet multiplier or dish one out when a specific card lands in your hand. A bit off the beaten path joker might beef up your hand selection or toss a massive multiplier your way if you’re brave enough to burn through all your discards. Now, that’s a prime example of what them jokers do: they don’t just reward, they nudge you toward takin’ some wild risks. They tap into that poker spirit, you know? The one that’s got you clingin’ onto an ace, even if it’s messin’ with your otherwise humble hand, all because givin’ it up would mean abandonin’ a shot at glory.

It’s a rhythm we all know, but hell, does it feel good. One run, I’m chasin’ flushes left and right, stackin’ buffs to up my hand size and scorin’ multipliers for specific suits. Another time, I’m all about them reliable two pairs, easier to draw and more consistent, though they might not net as many points… until I beef up that multiplier and throw in some complementary jokers. That’s the beauty of Balatro, folks. Every run’s a different ride, but the thrill? It’s always there.

Balatro Review - Image 3
Balatro Review – Image 3

Additional Pros:

There are certain games that feel at home playing them in a portable fashion. Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundreds Heroes feels right at home on the Steam Deck. The art style fits the portable aesthetic, the JRPG turnbase gamplay harkens back to the gold old days of the PSP and the Gameboy Advance. This game plays so well on the Deck. I also played the game on the Xbox Series S and X and it performed well. The game’s graphics and the colors pop on a bigger screen.

Balatro Review - Image 4
Balatro Review – Image 4


Alright, here’s the lowdown on a couple of things that didn’t quite sit right with me. First off, let’s talk about the layout. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent setup, but there’s a couple of issues. One slip of the finger, and bam! You’ve hit discard instead of play, and that’s enough to throw a wrench in your whole run. And let me tell ya, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Now, let’s chat about playing this game handheld. Seems like the perfect fit for a lo-fi roguelike, right? Well, mostly. Some of them text and visual bits? Too darn small to make out comfortably. It’s a minor gripe, sure, but still worth mentioning.

And here’s another little bone to pick: the music. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s catchy at first. But after a while, it starts to wear on you like a pair of shoes that ain’t quite broken in. A little variety wouldn’t hurt, y’know? Instead of hearing the same tune on repeat, it’d be nice to mix it up a bit. Heck, I even had to hit mute after a while just to keep my sanity intact.

Balatro Review - Image 5
Balatro Review – Image 5

Overall/Should you Play Balatro:

Let me lay it out plain and simple: this game is a dopamine machine. I’m talking maximum levels here. And let me tell ya, if there were real cash involved, this thing would be getting the boot quicker than you can say “ruin lives.” It’s like I’m Frodo and this game’s the One Ring, pulling me in deeper with every play. Never thought I’d say this, but it’s got me itching to dive into more deck builders.

Ah, Balatro. It’s somethin’ else, I’ll give it that. But here’s the thing: once you start, good luck tearin’ yourself away. Bills to pay, people to see? Forget about it. This game’s got a grip on ya, and it ain’t lettin’ go. Consider yourself warned. And That’s the Bottom Line Because Sebastion Said So!

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Reviewed on PC

Disclaimer: Review code provided by PR/publisher.
Sebastion Mauldin

Balatro Review


Indie game, Strategy video game, Roguelike deck-building game, Casual game



Music Can be A bit Repetitive.





February 20, 2024

Overall Rating: