Developed by: Cherry Pop Games
Published by: Mastertronic Group
Availability: Out now for XBLA and PSN
Description: A fun and entertaining downloadable pool game for your home consoles.
Though the novelty of the game Pool Nation (by Cherry Pop Games) wore off pretty quickly, I must admit that while I was playing the game in earnest after first downloading it I was rather impressed with the game. I am no stranger to the game of pool though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am good at it. Decent at best is the better way to describe my billiards game prowess. Still, I know enough of the game to know an authentic variation of it in a game form to appreciate it; and Pool Nation does a wonderful job recreating the game on a console. Though it may take some liberties with how easy it is to perform some of the more complex and visually impressive moves a true pool player can pull off, it does a great job translating that feeling of accomplishment to the player. And that is a good thing because the player will need all of those skills to really get past the game.
At its core, Pool Nation is a pool game, no doubt about that; but the ease at which players can learn and master many of the more difficult techniques of the game is really what makes the game great. You don’t need the years of training to master jump shots, angles and banks – a few practice sets will get you there along with a brief tutorial mode – but you can easily muster up these shots in a tourney in the game that will leave you feeling instantly gratified. Now, the AI in Pool Nation is no slouch; even after taking the tutorial and getting down the basics of some really nifty trick shots, the AI still wound up routing me a few times down the line. That’s fine by me because if the game were really that easy a lot of the fun factor would be lost. I don’t mind a game being easy, but if you take out some of the challenge, why even bother playing.
I had some real fun playing Pool Nation, more fun than at an actual pool hall or bar (and a lot less expensive once bets come into play), but while it can give players that satisfaction of winning a great match with several impressive shots, it doesn’t quite replicate the feel of the actual game. I miss the feel of the pool stick in my hand, the smell of the chalk as you freshen the end of your cue and the stinging pain of an errant ball cracking your ribs… okay, maybe I don’t miss that one so much, but you get what I am saying. As impressive a game as Pool Nation is, it doesn’t quite beat the real thing, though Cherry Pop did one hell of an impressive job making the game come to life.
The graphics quality of Pool Nation belies the cost of the game. These are the kinds of impressive visuals one would expect from higher quality, more expensively priced games – not something you would find on the PSN (as this game was reviewed on the PS3). And I thank Cherry Pop for that. There is no reason why an indie game can’t match the quality of top tier games in many aspects of production and design. Pool Nation is a prime example of beautifully detailed graphics and quality physics in a small developer’s game that can match the high qualities of AAA companies out there. So what if it is a pool game, the level of detail and craftsmanship in the game is a telltale sign that smaller game companies and teams can keep up with big companies – and that is only a plus in terms of quality and design in my opinion. The better the indie games the more it should push major publishers and developers to up their games.
Though Pool Nation is a solid game, as I stated before, the novelty of the game of pool on my PS3 wore off quickly. It does have deep game modes for players to mess around with, but it wasn’t enough to really capture my attention for more than a couple of weeks. My wife and kids are still having fun with it, that’s a plus, but I was done. Though I will admit that is not as much of the game’s fault as it is with my passing interest in pool in the first place. Still, for the time that I was seriously engaged with the game, it really had me into it. I would definitely highly recommend Pool Nation to any gamers out there looking for a nice distraction game to get them away from God of War, Madden, Call of Duty or any other time crunching game out there. Pool Nation is a fun and entertaining game and definitely worth its download and price. B+ all the way.