Developer – Hyper-Devbox
Publisher – Eidos Interactive / Conspiracy Entertainment
When I first received Pocket Pool for the PSP I felt as if I should be concealing the game from my wife when I arrived home. You see, the cover graces a stunning brunette bent over making a pool shot with her, shall we say, best assets staring right at you. Don’t get me wrong the cover is arguably a great feature of the game, however it almost gives you the sense you are getting into something a little naughty. Although primarily a billiards game the developers hold no punches in Pocket Pool with lots of unlockable sexy videos and pictures of incredible looking models. As far as the women are concerned, they are outstanding, but as far as gameplay is concerned I would suggest rent before you buy.
In terms of the visuals, Pocket Pool is somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand, the unlockable pictures of women and videos look great; and the pool tables look decent as well. On the other hand, there are noticeable things missing and these omissions ultimately hurt the game. For example, there are no character animations when playing and your pool cue essentially floats through the air as you adjust to make your shots. Granted, there are characters to choose from, however you only view their still mug shot as you play the game. At the very least I would have liked to have seen some character animations of the women featured in the game.
As I indicated above, the ‘dreamgirls’ do look very good on the PSP’s LCD screen and they certainly give the game some replay value as you attempt to win the next game in an effort to unlock more unlockable photos or videos. None of the women were readily recognizable but they all look like they could be Maxim pin-ups. A word of caution however, although some of the underwear and lingerie is see through at no time does the game depict any nudity. For parents this should be a welcome sigh of relief.
The environments and pool balls look good but that is about it as far as the game is concerned. Some of the unlockable skins for the pool tables are pretty original as they featuring guess what: women, of course. The pool balls available all look pretty good too and you can unlock some original looking ones. Unfortunately there is no audience, no commentators, and no playable characters on screen. I would have liked to have seen some of these added, however this may have been huge undertaking which could have potentially hurt the game further.
In addition to the above noted graphical concerns there are some issues with regards to the presentation of game and some of the icons which will annoy the heck out of you. For instance, when taking shots that are placed the lower right hand side of the LCD screen can be a royal pain. The icon that represents the angle of your shot repeatedly gets in the way and disrupts your concentration on said shot. There is the option of pressing ‘select’ to turn the problematic icons off, however you do need to turn them back on again to get access to the power and cue position meters.
As far as the sound is concerned Pocket Pool is uninspiring and weak. The audio presentations are very repetitive and the music was something out of a bad X-rated adult movie. More often than not I found myself turning off the volume and listening to my own tunes on my IPod. I would have preferred to have been able to have the option of listening to some recognizable recording artists or played my own tracks from my memory stick but unfortunately the latter is not even an option.
The character voices are very cheesy and very laughable. While the girls all sound like 2am Party Line TV commercial actresses; the guys just make these ridiculous comments which do not represent how the game is being played. There were times I was taking a beating but yet my character continued making comments something to the effect of “you suck”. You would think that after taking a considerable beating the trash talk would let up somewhat. Also, the comments are very repetitive, so much so that when playing a single game you often hear the same comments more than once.
On a positive note, the sound effects of the game are realistic. The balls banging into each other (no pun intended) all sound realistic and as if they would in a regular game of pool. I also thought the sound of the ball falling into the pockets was very realistic.
As far as the gameplay Pocket Pool is somewhat disappointing. The game’s mechanics are simply the biggest area of concern as you are often left puzzled after taking a shot. For example, when you are left with a simple shot such as one where you just have to slightly cut the ball into the pocket, it seems simple but despite having checked out the shot from all different angles you may miss the pocket where as other times the exact same shot at the exact same angle goes in. It just didn’t make sense. Bank shots are also a ‘gong show’ as you never know which direction the ball will take off. It was the latter that had me often questioning whether or not anyone checked the physics and if the table was level or not. Anyhow I am sure you get my point. Bottom line, this makes for a frustrating experience given the unpredictable nature of these occurrences.
When you first fire up Pocket Pool, a sexy little into montage of many of the models featured in the game appears. Although intentionally slightly blurry, this intro is great and well done. The main menu itself is very simple with two ladies on either side of your three main options: Start, Continue and Gallery. The Gallery is where all the unlockable pictures,, videos and some tunes will be accessible. Continue is where you pull up saved profiles and the Start is self explanatory.
Once you hit the Start Game button, you again have three main options; Single Player, Multi-Player and Tutorial. Single Player mode includes all the different pool games at your disposal such as Practice, Time Attack, Bonus 9 Ball, Pool 9 Balls, Pool 8 Balls, Pool 10 Balls, Pool 15 Balls, Straight Pool, Rotation Pool, Blackjack, Full Snooker, Short Snooker, and Killer. Each game is, for the most part, self explanatory and there is a little write-up of the rules of the game in the menu. There are varying speed settings in Pocket Pool which include slow, medium, and fast. Medium was the more playable option in my opinion. On slow I found I could barely break the pile on the initial strike and fast seemed a little too unrealistic for me as I found I just didn’t have the control I did on medium.
Once you enter the game, you have several options such choosing a room, a table, a ball set, a cue, a character, music and ball speed. When you first start the game there are a limited number of rooms, tables, cues and balls to choose from. A good aspect of the game is the fact that every game you win you gain an unlockable item and every second game you win you unlock a couple more girls in the gallery. It takes quite some time to unlock all 29 pages of the gallery considering there are 6 unlockables on each page. It will take you quite some time and a tremendous amount of patience as the gameplay mechanics drive you crazy.
Most of the time, you will be playing against the AI and the AI does offer up a good challenge right from the get go. There are 5 regular Joe’s to choose from and about 8 models to select in the character menu. After my first loss, which I equate to a total butt whopping, I quickly bounced out and watched the tutorial. The tutorial is somewhat helpful but does not make up for those problematic mechanics indicated earlier.
Another area of concern is the angles. Simply put they just seem off as there is no consistency in this area and it ultimately affects the gameplay in a negative way. The actual preparing and shooting is straight forward. The circle and square buttons allow you to put some spin on the ball and you can move the stick around the cue ball. The trigger buttons are used to cycle through the cameras enabling different views and I found that the overhead cam was my preferred camera angle. Adjusting the power of your shot and releasing the shot is done with the D-pad. All in all, very simplistic and easy to pick up but it still does not help with the wonky angles that this game presents.
Noticeably absent from Pocket Pool is a career mode. Although I do enjoy a simple pick up game when I am gaming on the go, I do believe Pocket Pool would have benefited from a career mode with characters who can develop and maybe even hook-up with one of those model babes. There is a multiplayer mode in Pocket Pool, however I was unable to find another match to play with someone. As a result, I cannot comment on this area.
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