Bicycle Casino Games
Time to hit the ATM, pull out your life savings, amble up to the roulette table and put it all on red. Don't like roulette? Then how 'bout some poker, craps or the Big Wheel? That life savings will go a long way on nickel slots or video poker, too. Don't worry if you lose; you can always hit the ATM again and again and again. This isn't Vegas, but it's about as close as you can get in a video game -- this is Bicycle Casino Games.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The first thing I noticed after starting a new game was how many different games were available. When you're in the casino lobby, you can select a number of tables to play and also go to a different room to play the video machines and slot machines. Each casino has roulette, craps, Big 6 Wheel, blackjack, baccarat, various reel and video slot machines, video poker and Keno, and a bunch of poker games such as Pai Gow, Caribbean Stud, Texas Hold 'Em, Omaha Hold 'Em, 7 Card Stud, and the classic Draw Poker.
When you select a game, you'll get a close-up of the table or machine and a window pops up with the basic playing instructions. If you aren't familiar with a particular game, you can expand the help to give detailed information on how the game works, how to bet, etc. Once you're ready to play, place your bet on the table and start the game. The interface for each game is very easy to work with and all the buttons have tool tips. The different buttons will change as each game progresses. For instance, if you are playing blackjack you start by placing your initial bet. The "Deal" button will show. After clicking on Deal, the cards are dealt and the buttons will change to allow you to hit, stand, double down or surrender. When the hand is complete, the buttons will change to "Clear Table" and the fun begins all over again. There are also some general option buttons that appear onscreen at all times such as Help, Exit and Navigation Bar, which gives you more options including as going to a different casino. Speaking of options, when you start a new game you are presented with a bunch of options such as which player character to use, whether other players are present during the games, audio options, help options and many more game-specific options.
There are three available casinos based on three actual casinos in Las Vegas: Treasure Island, The Mirage and Bellagio. Although the games in each casino are the same, the artwork for some is different. The main difference between each casino is the betting limits available. Treasure Island has the lowest, The Mirage is in the middle, and Bellagio has the highest limits. Bellagio also has a High Rollers room that you can only play in after winning a Casino Challenge or by collecting all the comps available in the game.
There are several types of tournaments available in each casino. Each game has its own tournament and each casino has a tournament that encompasses many different games. The Casino Challenges are divided into Freestyle (where you pick the games you want to play), Masters (where the judges pick the games), and Poker. "The Man of Many Voices," Danny Gans, hosts all the Casino Challenges in full-motion video.
After you've spent enough money and played enough games, you'll start to earn "comps." A comp (short for complimentary) is a freebie that hotels in Vegas offer players after they've spent a certain amount of money. The game is VERY quick to state that the comps offered in the game are not real and cannot be redeemed for any actual goods or services anywhere (this is plastered on the help screen for the comps). The in-game comps are kind of a cool touch; after you've earned them all, they allow you to play in the High Rollers room. I couldn't shake the feeling that they were also blatant in-game advertisements for various goods and services within the real hotels, since they all give a marketing-style description of the good or service you just won.
So what happens if you run out of money? Well, just visit the ATM. The nice thing about this ATM is that in addition to not getting charged a fee for withdrawing money, you can pull out as much as you want, whenever you want. The game keeps track of how much you pull out as compared to your winnings, and keeps various stats about each game you've played. It totals up all these factors to give you a final score, which can be compared with other people who also have set up characters in the game.
Unfortunately there is no multiplayer support at all in this game, which is too bad. An online version where you could play with other real people, or even multiplayer on the same machine, would've been a nice touch.
I like the graphics a lot. They're clear and crisp and have very nice detail. Each character appears to have been rendered in 3D and they all have very smooth animations. There are a lot of actual photos taken of various parts of the casinos, which you see either during loading screens or when you receive comps. The quality of the full-motion video looks very nice.
What's a casino without the ambient sound? You have casino-style music appropriate for your particular casino playing in the background (i.e. calypso music at Treasure Island). There are ambient sounds such as crowd noises and slot machines playing and paying. The sounds for passing out cards, playing slots, video poker, the big wheel spinning, and (everyone's favorite) cashing out all sound just like what you'd hear in Vegas. Each character also injects his or her comments while you're playing various table games. There are a lot of audio options in the game that let you customize exactly what you want and don't want to hear.
133 MHz (266 MHz recommended), Windows 95/98/2000/Me/XP, DirectX® 8.0a (included), sound card, 16.5 MB minimum available hard disk space (568.5 MB for a full install), 16 MB RAM for Windows 95 and 98, 32 MB of RAM for Windows Me, 64 MB of RAM for Windows 2000, 128 MB for Windows XP, 2X CD-ROM drive (4X or higher recommended), Super VGA monitor capable of 800 x 600 resolution, 2 MB graphics card, 16-bit color capable (4 MB or higher graphics card recommended), mouse or compatible pointing device
No hard documentation was included, but it's not necessary. Bicycle Casino Games has pop-up help and instructions during the various games. When you first go to a particular game, it will pop up a quick help screen that can also be expanded to show you detailed rules on playing the game. These help screens can be disabled, but also accessed at any time. I found the help to be clearly written and easy to read, which makes learning a new game a breeze.
This is the best video casino game I've ever played. It has a great selection of games to choose from and a simple interface. The online help is clearly written, which makes it easy for anyone to learn to play any one of the available games; the nice graphics and great sound also add a lot to the game. The addition of comps is a nice touch (although I still think it's shameless advertising). About the only thing missing here is a floppy disk drive that will spit out coins. If you enjoy casino gaming I'd highly recommend this title, which is why I give it a score of 85.