|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Hyper Devbox||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Eidos Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 17, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
There is one thing that developers have to get right when they create a virtual game of pool, and that's the physics. The angle of incident is equal to the angle of refraction. That's the law - the natural law of physics. If I send a ball into a bumper at a 45-degree angle, it has to rebound off that bumper at exactly the same 45-degree angle, but in the opposite direction. I don't want to bore you with science, but that's a relative easy concept to understand. Great pool players rely on this law with every shot they take. Unfortunately, Pocket Pool for the PSP is breaking these laws.
Failure to harness the laws of physics in such a game is inexcusable. It's not that there's a lot of depth to this game to begin with. It's a pool game for crying out loud. It's a notch above Pong. I've played pool mini-games that displayed better physics than this.
The gameplay mechanics are not totally flawed which makes it seem all the more frustrating since there is no consistency. These flaws just seem to occur at random. They are uncontrollable and unpredictable. One bad shot can make or break the game for you as you're A.I. cleans up after you. Banked shots can end up all over the table even though previous similar shots responded correctly. At other times you'll find that an angled shot comes right back at you like it was shot dead on. This is just voodoo. There's no way to compensate for this.
There are three speed settings: slow; medium, and fast. When you choose slow or fast, the physics become even more unrealistic. In real life when a ball hits another ball and then stops dead, causing the other ball to move forward, it is called the "transferal of kinetic energy." (I can't even believe I remember that from high-school physics. I failed it anyway.) When you choose the slow speed, the virtual kinetic energy is so lethargic that the balls almost stop before they hit the other ball, at which time they seem completely exhausted and refuse to even wobble. They just come to one big, slow, dead stop. The fast setting makes it feel like you're playing on a greased table. The balls slip and slide around with reckless abandon. Control is almost out the window. Only the medium setting gives you any semblance of reality. Despite the aforementioned flaws, the game is playable in the medium setting if you're prepared to put up with some bugs.
There are plenty of game options including 8 and 9-ball, snooker, killer, and standard pool, along with more obscure games such as 10 and 15-ball. All of the games have a decent look to them, especially the balls which are brilliantly reflective. And speaking of racks, this game features a bevy of bodacious babes. Yes, it's shamefully sexist. The girls depicted in this game are what give it a Mature rating. They are scantily clad and extremely suggestive. It's hoped that their presence will distract young boys from noticing the gameplay flaws.
You can play against A.I. opponents or in the two-player mode against a living, breathing human being. You can also play against yourself in some modes. In Bonus 9-ball, you receive points for each ball you pocket within a predetermined number of shots. Despite the different number of games and modes, there is no trick shot mode.
The controls don't inspire confidence. Even after an entire afternoon and the following morning, I still couldn't get used to aiming with the D-pad. I'm not even sure that I'm comfortable with the power meter the way it is, but I just divided it into weak, medium, and hard shots. Before you take a shot you have to line up your stick with the cue ball. To do this, you have to know where you want to place the ball in relation to the pocket. You also want to play "shape" which means that you're also concerned about where the cue ball will end up so as to make it more convenient for your next shot.
You can switch the camera angles using the L and R buttons. When looking down the cue, you can get the best view of how to line up your shot. A guideline will appear to show you exactly where the cue ball will be heading if hit from your present angle. It will not show you the path of the other ball. That would almost be cheating. Lining up the shot with the D-pad is frustratingly imprecise. But when you feel you have everything lined up as best as you can, you press the circle button to the desired strength on the power meter and then hit the ball with your stick and hope for the best.
There isn't much to get excited about with Pocket Pool. Not even the models and their cheesy videos are likely to scintillate you. The two-player Wi-Fi mode is decent but there's no reason that there couldn't be a pass-the-game-around mode. Everything about this game, from the presentation to the mechanics, is at best average. In all, it seems like little more than a sampling of mini-games.
CCC Senior Writer