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REVIEW | “Pool Nation” Finds Its Sovereign Groove

By
Posted on October 31, 2012 AT 07:00am

There are dozens, nay, tons of billiard-based video games out there, each one just as similar as the last. Developer CherryPop Games, on the other hand, has taken a somewhat different approach to the home of the 8-ball in Pool Nation, simply by giving players a chance to challenge themselves just a little bit more.

In Pool Nation players have the chance to go hands-on with eight types of billiard games, ranging from the usual games of 8 or 9 ball and Golf to some unique variations of the game in Speed and Killer. In Single Player mode gamers can go against AI characters in eight tournaments in 8 or 9 ball (four per each), or go the extra mile in Endurance mode. You can even learn some tips and tricks in Tutorial to add a tiny bit more of an advantage when playing against friends or computer opponents.

Endurance mode is the game style that CherryPop hopes people will win people over with. In it you have to knock in the balls as quickly as possible. After a few seconds a new ball will appear; once 24 are on the table the game is over. Endurance mode is tough mainly because the game of pool is one of careful precision and timing, and with a time limit hanging over your head there is no choice but to make a move quickly as possible. It’s a great gimmick to have in a billiards game, but that’s not what makes Pool Nation stand on its own.

Shockingly the best part of this game is the single-player tournaments. Here you choose from 8 ball or 9 ball, with each one having four tournaments with twelve rounds each. You battle it out with some strange characters, ranging from washed-up former champions and D-list celebrities to true masters of the table. There are bonus rounds to play, as well, which vary from 3 ball to Killer. Winning these rounds will help you unlock new pool cues, tables, and the occasional pool hall.

Whenever I’ve played against a computer in other billiards games, I’m always disappointed by the lack of difficulty it takes to beat them. Not so in Pool Nation. When you go up against someone that has a championship mention in his/her bio, they will play like they’ve won a few trophies. In fact I found myself a few times not having a single turn because the AI was so good. A few times I missed a ball in a crucial moment, causing me to lose the game right then and there because of one little screw-up. My advice: miss as little as possible, or else you’ll find yourself eating your hat with frustration.

When it comes to the overall appearance of the game, Pool Nation has got the style down pat. CherryPop Games has gone and made the pool halls you play in a mixture of neon bright and comfortably dark, setting up the perfect cool mood to the game of billiards. The attention to details is practically in the realm of realism, and I’m not just talking about how shiny the balls and table are. During a viewing of one my games in Replay mode I noticed the physics in the game stayed true to real life, from the way a ball may jump when going for a trick shot to how a ball falls into a pocket. (It doesn’t just “magically disappear” like in most games, rather you see it roll and curve under into the ball holder below.)

That said the worlds seem a little bit quieter than I imagined they would be. It would’ve added to the atmosphere that the game tries to create if there were people watching your game unfold, with the occasional background chatter and applause for a good shot. I couldn’t help but notice that the music, too, gets repeated over and over again. I love the EDM scene just as much as the next person, but a little bit more variety would’ve been nice to hear from my speakers.

With eight game modes to play with the AI and online/offline friends, eight tournaments, and Endurance mode there is a lot of gameplay to be found in Pool Nation. It will take you time to master all the AI challengers, along with earning all the stars from all the challenges you need to complete in order to gain all the bonus material.

PROS:

  • Many game modes
  • Beautiful graphics, almost realistic
  • Great challenging AI…

CONS:

  • …Although it can be frustrating for impatient gamers
  • Worlds could’ve been made a tad more livelier
  • Music gets a bit repetitive

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Pool Nation took me by surprise. From its challenging AI to realistic physics and worlds CherryPop Games’ first game is a beauty to watch and play. It may very well be the best billiards game on any console right now, and is the closest thing to actually going to a pool hall and challenging one of the regulars to a game. It may not make you a great player in real-life, but it will teach you the skills of patience and angling that are needed to be at least decent at it.

FINAL GRADE: 8.5 (out of ten)

Review copy provided by Tinsley PR

Evan Bourgault is an accomplished music, anime, and video game critic. His passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Evan joined the ElectricSistaHood team in 2008, where he is a contributing editor and host of one of the network's weekly podcasts. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck




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