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Playing Way Too Much Balatro

Playing Way Too Much Balatro

Over the past month or two, I’ve been playing a little game called Balatro on my Nintendo Switch. I got it out because I saw some gameplay and really liked what I saw. A roguelike deckbuilder? That’s my kind of bread and butter! Flash forward to now and I am working on 100% completion, so I just wanted to talk about this game as it slowly took over my nights.

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I should point out that the version I'm playing isn' up to date with the PC version.

Balatro is all about making your own luck. Using standard playing cards and poker hands, you need to score enough chips to beat the Blind and move on to bigger and scarier Antes. Do that eight times and you win and get to play Endless Mode to see how far you can take it. Easy, right? Of course not! At a certain point, not even Royal Flushes will be enough to beat a Blind by the second Ante, but that’s why Jokers are available to turn your poker hands into scoring abominations of nature.

Jokers are special cards that have a variety of different effects that can help you beat the Blind, from adding chips and bonus multipliers (called “Mult” here) to your score or just giving you special cards that modify your cards on the fly. There are 150 Jokers, each with unique conditions and effects, and that’s where things go off the rails. A +4 Mult doesn’t seem like much, but having it trigger with every heart card on a Flush, then repeated with a Blueprint Joker, then repeated again when that heart card has a red seal, then having the Hack Joker retrigger every card ranked five and below except aces and in addition to having the Driver’s License Joker to add x3 Mult afterwards, and that +4 turns into… a math problem. It’s in the hundreds of thousands, probably. Jokers trigger from left to right (depending on its activation condition), so the game rewards forward-thinking but also forces you to adapt on the fly. There are only so many slots for Jokers, and since this is a roguelike, everything is randomised. You might not get the combination you were going for, but you might be able to discover something new.

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Gambling without the crippling debt.

And all of this isn’t quite an exploit, as you will need to create combos like these just to survive the later Antes. I’m being serious here. On Endless Mode, you can get to a point where the score requires more chips than there are atoms on planet Earth… and it’s still possible to reach that score, given the right Jokers and enhanced cards. It can quite literally get to a point where the game can’t calculate the score anymore and just says “Naninf”. You'll need a seed and a guide, but it is possible. That’s why I love Balatro enough to try and obtain all the Jokers and different decks through progression, despite the fact there is literally an option to just unlock everything, no questions asked. And since this is on the Switch, I don't have to care about achievements. It's a roguelike deckbuilder at its purest.

I haven’t even gotten to just how satisfying it all is just to play the game. From the sounds to the presentation, Balatro does it all in such a calm manner that you sort of forget the numbers you’re dealing with. When you see the score light up in flames, that means you beat the Blind in one hand, and that’s always a good sight to see.

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10 Jokers with a x10 Mult... and it still isn't enough to beat Ante 12.

I’m not getting into everything, such as how crazy the community is and the seeded runs that have been discovered (such as having a deck with only 10s), but that’s pretty much everything I have to say about Balatro. If you haven’t already gotten it, give it a shot because it’s way better if you play it for yourself. It’s more addictive than gambling… and way kinder to your wallet too!

Dylan Pamintuan

Dylan Pamintuan

Staff Writer

An Australian-born guy whose trying to show everyone why games are awesome.

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