A pool game. I haven’t had to play, let alone review a pool game in quite a long time, they stopped being made for a reason you know…no one likes them.
First off, I will admit that coming into this review, I questioned what anyone could get out of playing a videogame that is – let’s face it – very easy to go and play the real thing. However after a little bit of time spent playing the game that may seem rather dismissive so let’s see what Pool Nation has to offer.
Pool Nation is a sports game based around (you guessed it) pool, not the swimming kind of ‘pool’, I mean the pub game, 8ball, spots and stripes, red and yellow (if you’re English) you get the picture. The game offers 9 game types from single player modes such as Endurance in which you ‘pot’ as many balls as you can against the clock and compete for high scores, to Versus Mode which allows you to play against other players via Xbox Live.
The game has the usual unlockables including ball sets of varying colours, decals and miscellaneous images and various cues, a useless unlockable if ever I’ve seen one. These are unlocked for use by unlocking achievements throughout the 9 game types. The main single player mode 8 or 9 Ball Tours, require you to play against a varied cast of characters with back-stories that have no impact on anything, which felt rather pointless and ultimately, just a tacked on feature to lend the game an feeling of depth.
You can also unlock more of the above by completing ‘Bonus Rounds’ which have different rules to the main tours; in each game you will be able to obtain 3 stars, 1 star for winning the other 2 stars for meeting specific predetermined goals. Obviously the more stars you earn per round, the greater your reward will be.
So with a game based around a single aspect of gameplay in this case the physics engine, it will certainly make up a bulk of the score out of ten, so does it work well enough to merit some points? I am somewhat surprised to announce that it does. Unlike countless other games of a similar style, the game is very responsive and the physics never seemed to act strangely or behave in a manner I wasn’t expecting, this made the game much easier to get into.
You just line the cue up with the left thumb stick, and you’ll see a line of trajectory, pull the right thumb stick back to ready the cue and you’re done, push it forward and bingo you’re playing! Thankfully the game has a lot more to it than that, the controls are very in depth meaning those wishing to invest the time, can become extremely good at it. If you spend some time playing around with the simple stuff, and try to incorporate it with rebounds and bouncing the ball of the sides of the table, you can pull of some shots that will ensure you smile to yourself praising your own skill. The Tutorial is solid and teacher you the ins and outs of how to become a master one-step at a time. Furthermore the game rewards your efforts by giving you a healthy amount of bonus points for achieving trick shots, you can also view them in super slow motion, a strange and once again seemingly pointless addition, but who knew there could be so much creativity on pool table? All this technical stuff is great but for me it was the ability to jump straight in and play it that made it so appealing I’ve always preferred a “learn by doing” approach and that will make the game enjoyable for casual players. The game was fault free to an extent, is is of course still only a pool game; my only real gripe was with the repetitive music, once that was off and I had made my own playlist to listen to I was free to enjoy myself.
So I’ll say that this is a really good pool game. It’s responsive, easy to get into and very pretty with its near photo realistic graphics. Sure it doesn’t do a lot, in all actuality it does very little but what it does do – it does extremely well. If you like pool but you’re not old enough to go to the pub then this is the game for you! For only 800 Microsoft Points, that’s £6.80 it’s a bargain. I can comfortably award this game an 4/5. But don’t get all up in arms over such a score; it’s an 8/10 for a pool game, that doesn’t put it on par with the likes of Bioshock or Call of Duty. Perfect for the enthusiast that finds themselves stuck in a niche audience with little filler.