Pool (or more popularly known here in the Philippines as Billiards) is a game of skill and concentration. You can’t really become an Efren “Bata” Reyes overnight, and the investment of time and money for equipment and practice make most people shy away from even trying out the sport. That and the lung cancer you get from frequenting the cigarette smoke-filled billiard halls.
But Pool is fun. Even non-players get drawn to the sound of the ivory balls striking each other. The satisfaction of seeing a called shot doing exactly what you want it to. Developer Cherry Pop Games gives us Pool Nation. And for $8.49 you get to avoid the hassles associated in learning to play the sport, but still retain the fun.
Sure, there’s already Hustle Kings for the PS3 and I know it’s a pretty decent billiards game. So what makes Pool Nation different?
The game is at its core, a pretty standard video game version of Pool. But once you delve into the tutorial, you will realize Pool Nation is not just your standard line-up, shoot, an pocket kind of deal but instead use more complicated and realistic ball physics. More emphasis is given to trick shots and skill shots and the excellent tutorial does a very good job of teaching you to pull amazing shots that will have you feeling like a badass Pool Shark.
Single player modes are tournament-based. You have your 8-ball and 9-ball tourneys, with a unique bonus round in each tournament phase. Pretty straightforward.Whereas Hustle Kings has its story mode where you play as a pool player searching for fame and fortune, Pool Nation ismore of a real Pool simulator focusing on realistic physics and gameplay mechanics.
There is also a local versus and an online option which I haven’t tried yet. Endurance Mode was the thing that got me hooked, though. In this time-based mode, you need to continuously sink balls to fill a meter that is constantly being depleted. Get style and combo points to get the meter filled quicker. Once it drops to zero then it’s game over.
I was expecting a bland experience but I played a couple of hours last night and was surprised that I ended up liking the game.
Ok, let’s do the breakdown.
The Good Stuff:
Graphics — This is the best looking pool game on a console I’ve seen. The shine and reflections on the balls and the finish on the table are perfectly rendered. When you make an awesome shot, the camera goes into bullet mode and you will see every detail of the shot; from the particles of chalk exploding from the cue ball to the subtle warping of the cushion when the ball banks.
Very helpful tutorial — In a game that is so technical and one that rewards you for playing technically, you will really need to know what you are doing. Thankfully, the supplied tutorials in this game are clear and precise. It tells you step by step how to do a particular shot and it is very satisfying when you eventually master the moves yourself.
Realistic Physics — A sliver of difference in how you make the shot will affect the ball physics accordingly. Shoot a bit too hard and the balls can even go out-of-bounds off the table and crash to the floor (with a realistic sound that will make you cringe like the real thing). But it doesn’t end with the ball and cue stick — the cushions and even the wood of the table reacts to the shot with amazing detail.
Pulling off trick shots and skill shots is extremely satisfying — I’ve learned a trick where you jump the cue ball to the wood part of the table above the cushion and spin it back to the table to your target. It’s kinda like Sonic the Hedgehog lol. I felt like a badass when I nailed it. The accessibility of these pro techniques is the main draw for me. Shot creativity is the key to advancing through the tourneys.
No clunky menus and loading screens — Menus are fast with no unnecessary things going on. When playing a game like this, being able to restart instantly is something I appreciate. Thankfully this game lets you do exactly that.
The Bad Stuff:
AI opponents — They cheat! One moment you are owning them but when you are about to win and the make a mistake, the AI swoops in and become Efren fucking Reyes. It’s like the rubberbanding AI in Mario Kart. I hate it.
Playing against a friend is really fun, though.
Hard to get online matches — I’m not sure if everyone who has the game was sleeping when I tried to get an online opponent or no one actually has the game except me but I will try again later tonight.
The game could use a bit of personality — Interface is minimalistic and direct to the point. I know the developer meant it to be this way but I think it could use a little bit of shine and flash.
Things That Could Swing Either Way:
More of a Sim, Less Arcadey — I like how it’s a realistic Pool game which was the original intention, but some people used to pool games like Hustle Kings and Inferno Pool might feel it’s kinda boring.
If you are a fan of Pool/Billiards and like the strategy and tecnical aspect of it, then this is worth every cent because quite frankly, this is the best video game Pool sim out there.
If you are a fan of Pool/Billiards and like the strategy and technical aspect of it, then this is worth every cent because quite frankly, this is the best pool/billiards sim out there.
If you are looking for a party game, then look elsewhere.
Pool Nation is available via digital download from the PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3 and XBOX Live Marketplace for the XBOX 360. It is priced $8.49 (or whatever the equivalent Microsoft Points lol)
Big thanks to Cherry Pop Games for providing us with a review code of their game!