June 16, 2013
At it's core, Pool, just like Snooker (or Billiards) is a game that's all about physics. You need to strike the cue ball in such a way, that will knock into the target ball and send it into a pocket. It's such a simple concept, but one that is very hard to master when there's multiple balls to worry about.
There are a few different types of Pool, and the main ones featured in Pool Nation are 8-Ball and 9-Ball. 3-ball also makes an appearance, but only in special challenge matches, along with lots of other formats.
The games single player focusses on 8-Ball and 9-Ball tournaments. There are four different tournaments to play through in each of these, with only the first two being available at the start. Naturally, the competition gets harder as you progress through the tournaments, but they are quite substantial in their own right.
In the Sky Lounge Cup, which is part of the 9-Ball Tour, you will have to go through twelve different matches to claim the prize. Even if you do this, you still might not achieve enough though, as it's also about how you win that matters. In each match, you will be set three different objectives, which like your opponent, get harder over time. For example, initial objectives are to win the match and pot two balls in a row, while later objectives might be to win the match by using a skill shot only.
All of this is quite standard for a game of this nature. Indeed, where Pool Nation starts to set itself apart is with the types of shot you can make, and the relative ease with which you can do so. There's quite an extensive tutorial mode for a reason, because the developers have made this as true to life as possible. The level of detail is such that they've even made it possible to chip the ball onto the side of the table with enough spin to make it jump back on again. For those who can only dream of doing that kind of shot in reality, this is the game that can make your dreams come true.
The majority of the trick shots are a lot less extravagant than that, but are still very satisfying to pull off. The most simple is the swerve shot, but for those who aren't Pool connoisseurs, the game helps to explain how this shot works on a basic level. You will also be able to start performing jump shots without too much trouble and it changes the entire dynamic - you're no longer restricted to just playing Pool in a straight point and shoot nature.
It's safe to say that the accessibility of the skill shots makes the game a lot more fun and despite there not being a whole lot of variety as you progress through the different tournaments, it's your own creativity that will drive you forward.
In each of the tournaments, there are also bonus rounds. These are unlocked by getting two or more stars in a main match and are a bit more original in their formats. Here, you might play 3-ball, or play a game of Killer, where you take turns and are allowed three misses. The first person to miss three times loses.
When it comes to the game's presentation, everything looks very smooth. The environments are as detailed as you would expect and there are quite a few of them. Likewise, the table can have many different decals applied to it, to mix things up. Sometimes though, these are counter productive, especially if the decal is the same colour as the balls you're trying to pot.
As mentioned earlier, there are lots of different formats to choose from. Outside of bonus rounds, these can be found in the Versus mode. This is where you can play against a fellow Pool fan or against the AI if that's what takes your fancy. You can play matches of up to 7 frames, and choose from game types such as Golf, Speed, Straight, Rotation or Killer.
In addition to Versus mode, there's also Endurance mode. This takes you with lasting as long as you can, while balls are constantly added to the table. Once 24 balls appear on the table, it's game over.
Pool Nation excels in making Pool a rather interesting proposition, despite this type of game being done so many times in the past. The accessibility of the skill shots is perhaps the game's best achievement, but it's also nice that there are quite a few different game types to play.
Pool Nation was reviewed on the PlayStation Network. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.