Hard Rock Casino
| Hard Rock Casino

There's a reason why casinos don't have clocks, windows or TVs: it's to keep you cosseted from the outside world, mesmerised by the lurid colours and tinkling sounds, and generally disoriented to the point where you'll hand over half your annual salary in the space of 24 hours.

You see, the truth of the matter is that casinos are really not that much fun. Sure there's a slim chance you might come away in profit but it's really the extras that make the casino experience enticing � think over-friendly cocktail waitresses (ever wondered why they all look like ex-Beauty Queens?), complimentary drinks and cheap-yet-plush hotel rooms.

Unsurprisingly, Hard Rock Casino can't hope to match the tawdry glitz of the real thing (unless you have a partner willing to don a Bunny outfit and bring you a cheese toastie every 15 minutes) and as a consequence it all feels rather flat and functional.

On the plus side, there are a lot of games on offer, each assigned to one of four categories: Sports, Table Games, Slots or the Poker Room. So along with classics like blackjack, roulette, craps and baccarat, there are more obscure gambling games like Pai Gow, Let it Ride and Casino War.

When you add to this a room full of slot machines, sports betting and classic poker games such as 5-Card Draw and Texas Hold 'em, there's no denying this is a package big on quantity.

But what about the quality?

Alas, every game does the bare minimum you'd expect of it and nothing more. The slot machines are possibly the worst, requiring a simple press of the X button to get the tumblers whirling � few even offer the excitement of holds or nudges.

Sports betting gives you the odds of the horses but no form, so it's essentially a stab in the dark, while table games like roulette and craps are purely luck based (unless you are psychic or have a 'system' of course) so feel dissatisfying even if you win big.

And that's the problem. No matter how it's dressed up, winning virtual chips is a hollow experience. To its credit, Crave has made an attempt to give players some motivation by including an Adventure mode, in which you unlock extra casinos and bonuses by completing set challenges, but the bonuses on offer ('You've won a peaked cap!') simply aren't worth the bother.

It doesn't help that some of the challenges are poorly thought out. You may have to double your money on the roulette table, for instance, something that's relatively easy to do if you only have $200 but incredibly laborious if you've built your bankroll up to $10,000, given that the maximum bet is $200. So it's actually better to throw your money away on the horses (which is even more random and impossible to predict than the real thing) and come back when you're at rock bottom. Illogical nonsense.

The Poker Room offers the most depth but as you'd expect from a game that's effectively a 'jack of all trades and master of none', each variant is lacking in sophistication. The four games available are Texas Hold 'em, Omaha Hold 'em, 7-Card Stud and 5-Card Draw, and while experience and card knowledge will improve your chances of winning, your ability to bluff opponents is seriously compromised by their conservative AI.

The bare bones approach evident in the various activities extends to every aspect of the game, with presentation bordering on the functional and a utilitarian interface that feels clunky. Placing bets entails moving a highlighted marker around the table like some flash game created for a sixth form project. Though worse is the fact that if you're unsure how to play a game, you have to exit to the main menu to see the tutorial � which is badly thought out and plain annoying.

The game may have won more favour if the character creation feature had been more expansive but, even here, players get a bum deal. You are limited to some eight main character types and about 12 different costumes. Being able to identify with your character and play around with tailoring the environment to suit you would have given it greater dynamism, but as it stands this particular gambling establishment is an insipid place to be.

Hard Rock Casino, then, is engaging for about an hour as you wonder around the various areas to experiment with each game, but thereafter the enjoyment factor drops off dramatically. Ultimately, the virtual chips have no significance and despite the game's good intentions, you're left with a tremendous sense of disappointment. Which, in fact, probably makes this the best preventative cure for gambling addiction currently on the market.

Hard Rock Casino

Quantity over quality, this suite of gambling games fails to capture the thrill of throwing all your money away on the single spin of a wheel