|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Frontline Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: UFO||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 26, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: E||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Philip Hanan
The underground world of pool is like no other underground. People secretly play others for money and wear fancy vests and don't talk much. Darn! Why can't pool be cool like underground racing?
Originally, Frontline Studios tried to make a cool pool game. It was called Hardcore Pool and featured a guy on the cover with a cigar and two ladies at his side. It seemed like something taken from the Outlaw sports series, but alas, UFO probably had it toned down to attract younger gamers. Now, only the title screen remembers what the game could have been. What a shame
Yes, pool fans should like pool video games without them having to have some kind of deep story that doesn't matter in a sports game, but I thought this game would be different when I purchased it. I thought it might be edgy and exciting to play. After testing it, my answer is "no."
In fact, the story writers are so bad, I wouldn't be surprised if they were the ones who translated Zero Wing for the U.S. audience. Take the opening words, "Somewhere in the city, only this night, you will meet best players and you need to show them who is the boss." Boss of what? Bad game translations?
After such crude writing, I'm glad to see that there isn't a story in the game. Still, I did find 16 highly detailed painted characters to choose which of course really adds to ..nothing. Honestly, why have fully painted characters when only their faces actually show up in the game? I suppose it's because Frontline decided it would be easier to feature a single painting instead of a decent character select screen.
I suppose selecting the characters isn't too difficult, but it really depends on the controls. The painting features arrows to click on, but since they're at the bottom of the touch screen, they're extremely difficult to press. Your second choice is pressing on the characters in the painting which the game does not tell you is possible. The best choice is to skip the stylus and simply use the D Pad to scroll through the character list.
The characters are used in every game mode which includes Single, Challenge, and Multiplayer. Of course, there is an options mode which includes Music On/Off, Erase Game Saves, and View the Credits, which all seem pretty pointless; however, I highly recommend turning off the electronic style elevator music. Doing so helps makes this bad game tolerable. A Help mode is also there to teach you how to play. I'll explain the controls in detail when discussing the actual gameplay.
Single mode and Challenge are similar, but there is one difference. In Single mode, you play one round of 8 or 9 ball pool against the computer or a friend by sharing the DS. In Challenge mode, you will face off against multiple computer opponents in tournaments. Completing two tournaments or more will unlock a new stage and each stage unlocked will unlock two more pool clubs. Multiplayer will allow up to four players to compete in a game of 8 or 9 ball.
The focus of the entire game is always 8 and 9 ball games, with no unlockable games. Yes, this game was supposedly going to be called "Hardcore Pool," but it's not. It doesn't play "Hardcore" and it doesn't even feature half of the number of games that the world of billiards has.
Maybe Frontline knew that after two games, people would quit anyway, so they didn't bother developing anymore. I wish they had at least spent more time developing a game engine that truly brought touch screen action to the game. When I purchased the game online, I did it without viewing any media whatsoever, as I immediately thought a DS pool game would have to be the best pool video game ever, but Frontline did not deliver what could have been the best virtual pool experience so far.
The top screen features a nice 3D pool game with minimal detailed backgrounds while the touch screen features a boring, flat, pool table overhead view. Now, I don't know why they didn't feel they couldn't feature real pool stick stroking in 3D, but they seemed to think that the game would be easier in 2D. The problem is that you don't even get true pool stick movements in this game.
If you want to use the touch screen to play, then be ready for jerky movements. When moving the cue ball with the stylus, you probably won't be able to line it up perfectly, so I recommend simply using the D Pad to get dead-on accuracy. Then, tap the cue ball icon or press A to permanently set it. To strike the cue ball using the stylus, you must prepare for the strike by using several options. First, drag the pool stick around until you decide on a shot angle. Then, move it as close or as far away as you need by either dragging the stick or by using the meter on the right side of the screen. Use the left touch screen meter to adjust the height of the pool stick. Afterwards, tap the moving ball icon to make the shot. This will take a while and may not be very accurate. If a 3D touch screen had been used you could see behind the cue ball and you could stroke the touch screen, giving you full control over pool stick height, stroke strength, and angle. Maybe someday a developer will use this idea.
For now, I highly recommend using the buttons. Left and Right will control the angle of your shot while Up and Down will control the height of your pool stick. Y and X will adjust the strength of your shot, and A will shoot. Also, you can use R to view which balls to shoot at and L to change the top screen camera angle. The behind the cue ball view helps a lot. The only other options in the game are viewing instant replays and using chalk (limited amount), which are chosen via the stylus.
It's a shame that this game approaches real pool simulation with meters and not with "real feel" shooting. I expected this game to revolutionize the virtual pool market, but in the end, it proves that there is nothing new in the world of virtual pool and for the best pool game, you should just play the real deal.
CCC Freelance Writer