PC Games

Published on February 24th, 2024 | by Paul Stuart

Balatro Review (PC)

Balatro Review (PC) Paul Stuart

Summary: An outstanding take on the rogue lite genre, brilliant packaged in a video poker environment.


Royal Flush

In perhaps the most unique rogue lite of the year, developer LocalThunk brilliantly combines fast paced video poker with randomly derived multiplier cards consisting of jokers, planets and tarot. Each round in Balatro features specific rules, most notably amount of playable hands and discards at a player’s disposal. As the game progresses, difficulty scales in number of points a player required to complete a stage. Balatro points are a product of played hands in a round interacting with multiplier cards for it.

Balatro’s rogue lite aspect is derived from the randomness of its multiplier cards (purchased at round end from coins) combined with player hand (random drawn from a deck). Matching multipliers to selection played (card number, pairs, threes, straight, flush, etc.) will send scores through the roof. Big wins (less hands played, highest scores) will produce maximum coins to subsequently purchase even more potent multiplier cards and unlocks in the overall Balatro system.

Scaling in difficulty also increases strategy requirements to clear Balatro rounds. As levels progress, limitations in scoring (debuffing certain cards, reduced playable hands, hidden cards), etc., emerge. Thus – even with a stacked Balatro deck – it becomes imperative to play cards most positively impacted by multipliers to survive later stages.

Once multiplier cards are stacked (up to five jokers and two additional tarot cards), Balatro points come fast and furious. What seemed like an impossible score at early stages can be cleared in a single hand if the Balatro rogue lite gods treat you well. Even ends to these runs are bittersweet, as unlocked multiplier cards now available for future runs. Thus, the more one puts into Balatro, the greater the access to high potency multipliers at later stages.

For fans of video poker, Balatro borders on addictive. It offers the excitement and randomness of the game, but in a format where time invested produces true return on investment. Every good Balatro run unlocks so much more for future ones. And in less than an hour, Balatro is already opened up for deep runs.

If there’s one criticism of Balatro, there’s a poker learning curve here. If you’ve never played video poker before – even for rogue lite aficionados – this may not be for you. It’s not that Balatro has a highest barrier of entry, but it isn’t Slay the Spire. This is a poker rogue lite, not the other way around.

Final Thoughts

Balatro is a brilliant take on the rogue lite genre. Video poker fans will be grinning ear to ear playing this truly terrific card game that is hard to put down.

About the Author


A gamer for over 30 years, Paul Stuart has an unhealthy obsession with Assassins Creed, God of War, also sport and virtual reality titles. In his spare time, he teaches Muay Thai kickboxing, runs WrestlingInFlorida.com, and drives his toddler crazy.

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