Pool Nation Review

Pool Nation

One might think that there are only two types of people in this world: those who care about videogame pool… and those who don’t. Pool Nation from Cherry Pop games suggests that there may, in fact, be a third type: the person who never knew he or she cared about videogame pool, but will after playing Pool Nation.

In all fairness to developers who build elaborate adventures that feature deep narratives and complex user interfaces, a billiards simulation is about as simple a game as they come. Pool Nation doesn’t offer a wide variety of things to do, but it does accomplish its goals successfully and admirably. This is a good game of virtual pool.

Pool NationI’m inclined to go ahead and simply trust that the ball and cue physics employed by Cherry Pop games in Pool Nation are well researched and accurate, especially while observing how all of the minor adjustments that go into each shot affect the path of the cue ball before and after striking the other balls on the table. This path is displayed when lining up shots, to an extent, with the highlighted trail fading appropriately depending on the distance between balls, the distance to the pocket, and the use of advanced English (spin) or the table’s rails. The trail shifts in real time as players adjust the point at which the cue stick strikes the cue ball, the vertical angle at which the stick is held, and the power level of the stroke.

The level of control over the cue afforded to players allows for irregular kick shots (bouncing the cue ball off the rail to hit another ball) , masse shots (curving the cue ball) , and jump shots, as well as more routine side English, draw, and follow shots. Only occasionally did the effect of my shot preparation clash with what I thought I knew about the physics of playing pool, having grown up with a table in the house and developing a certain level of proficiency with the game. I’ll chalk that up to error in my calculations and understanding of the complexities of the game. Anyway, until the ball trail is turned completely off, it has little bearing on play, as Pool Nation spells it out right there on the table.

Because of the detail in the user interface, the game is incredibly easy. Because real pool is NOT incredibly easy, this creates some sense of artificiality, which might initialy offend some players. Removing those guide lines, however, re-introduces the soul-crushing difficulty of virtual pool — which I’d venture to say is more severe than actual pool — to the Pool Nation experience. Masochists, rejoice!

Pool NationI find Pool Nation to be better suited to a “Zen-gaming” role, though. Running through the 8- or 9-ball tours with easy-listening lounge instrumentals playing in accompaniment to the game’s barren and unimpressive visual stylings can serve as great “veg-out” sessions. Losing games doesn’t make a lick of difference, as every game can immediately be replayed with no penalty, so the path through each circuit feels completely uninterrupted, even by the interspersed bonus rounds that net decals, cue sticks, and ball sets to customize play later.

Pool Nation‘s Endurance mode is a moderately exciting change of pace, making players race against time to clear balls from the table, but the novelty quickly wears thin. Versus mode likely holds the greatest value, in that it allows friends to share the pool experience. The addition of a human opponent greatly alters the nature of the game, as everything feels less algorithmic and more, well, human. The competition between players in the same room simply escalates the urgency associated with one’s performance at the table. As for online competition, I have yet to find an available game. Scratch that idea.

There’s no mystery about Pool Nation; the game does a fine job simulating the mechanics of playing pool. Whether this is something you care to partake in is up to you, but if it is, you can rest assured knowing that the game does its part without a hiccup. There is likely no better option when looking for a pool simulation video game.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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