|A very pleasant pool game. On some cozy little tropical island, you have nothing else to do but compete for money against various other offbeat pool-sharks in eleven or more regular pool games, at least four or five mini-games, and on various oddly-shape unlockable novelty tables. Smooth ambient tunes waft across the wildlife-filled beach backdrop, the soothing day-night cycle of billiards punctuated only by the sweet calls of native birds and the click of the cue ball as it lays waste to another frame.|
|Lemme just list the regular pool game types available for those pool aficionados out there:|
- 6 Ball
- 9 Ball
- 10 Ball
- 8 Ball (US)
- 8 Ball (UK)
- 14 to 1 Continuous
- 15 Ball
I don't even know what all those are yet. It's edutainment!
I've been playing some 14 to 1, 8-Ball (UK) and 6-Ball against the CPUs at the bottom of the ladder, and it's pretty fun. There seem to be about 32 AI characters in all, and the bottom-rung ones play convincingly badly. :) The whole game works on a betting scheme, so you make cash by winning games, more for higher stake games, but on the flip side you can't even play a game against the higher stake players until you're able to put up the necessary cash. You can spend cash in the shop to get little doodads, useful gadgets, or to unlock the "Crazy Tables" or minigames. I wish some of those were open from the beginning, alas.
You can only play two-player, which I guess makes sense, but you'd have thought they could have come up with some four-player pool games if they had tried. Oh well. The game does not support progressive scan, sadly typical of games that come to both PS2 and GC. :p
But enough negative! The game itself plays a damn fine game of pool. The controls, using quite a few buttons and sticks for manipulating the various options, take a bit of getting used to, but once you've got the hang of things the cue really starts to feel responsive. The game has an interesting analog cue control: when shooting, you hold A, then move the analog stick forward or back>forward, as if you were moving your cue to hit the ball. Takes some getting used to as I said, particularly for the softer touch, but man, in my last couple matches I was ripping off some great-feeling shots, it just started feeling really intuitive. Heck, I even made a three-ball-chain--and I had called it! Woohoo! I've never pulled that off before in a pool game, at least not outside of a trick-shot mode.
The physics seem pretty darn impeccable. I haven't seen anyone do one of those jumping shots yet but I bet they're in there. I've used backspin on a few shots and it works just like you'd think. Beautiful.
The representation of the other player is interesting: a pair of disembodied hands holding the cue. They move around as if attached to an invisible body, and will get out of your way for instance if you have to shoot near them. Sure it's a shortcut to avoid having to make animated models for all the CPU characters, but they did it stylishly--the swanky femme fatale I just played, for instance, is represented by hands wearing tight black silk gloves. And as I said, the lower-rung AIs have been playing badly in very convincing fashion. The only thing that bugs me slightly about them is that you have to wait for them to walk around the table when it's their turn to shoot--I wish there was a way to skip that. But I guess it's sort of more fitting to the pace of things that they walk over.
There's a replay mode you can call up after any of your shots, unfortunately it isn't really very good as you have no live camera control, and no live reverse play control. Speaking of the camera, you have a number of view types to choose from during play but only a couple (regular follow mode and overhead) are actually useful. And when the computer is shooting you sometimes can't even see the cueball, just the pocket they're going for.
The graphics are rather muddy, pretty PS2-ish, and there isn't all that much to see except for the island and the ocean beyond, but the day-night cycle has some nice colors and all the little huts and tables and things look good enough, if not spectacular in any way. There's a clever little chalk mark left on the table after you shoot, although in replay mode (see below) this builds up over and over after each replay until it's a bright blue weal. Funny.
Sounds are great though, particularly the ambient synth music--it just goes and goes, slipping seamlessly into different beats and tempos, but always nice and laid back, baby. The clack of the balls on the table is just right. The sound is hypnotic, really, and you can just kind of chill and keep playing for hours without noticing time fly by.
A job darn well done. Sold as a budget title but what with all the unlockables in the shop there is a ton of pool stuff to explore here, and it just plays so nice. Now I'm really looking forward to unlocking some of those minigames too (one is supposedly an old-school arcade shooting game...???).
|I've already encoutered two bugs: the one with the chalk marks in Replay mode, and now an actual hang during play--I think it had something to do with toggling the Laser Sight gadget on and off, because I did that and then on the opponent's next shot, it showed a first-person view with the Laser Sight, as if I was playing their turn--except that it was hung and I couldn't do anything.|
The game doesn't auto-save, either. Ever. So I'll be saving after every match, I guess.
Still, this game is real fun. Thanks to the manual I figured out that the gold "$" appearing below the opponent's portrait while I'm shooting is them offering a side bet on a specific shot. Neat. Also according to the manual there are side 8 Ball tournaments that come up as you move up the ladder. I'm still in last place (32nd :P). I'm starting to suspect that this will be a very challenging game.
|Oh, I should mention that when playing single-player, you don't get to pick what game you're going to play, exactly. Each AI in the ladder will be offering to play some kind of game for a certain bet amount, if you have enough money to put up a stake you can play that game against them. The different characters seem to have preferences as to which games they are willing to play.|
|Whee! another bug: while in Ball Movement mode, switch to the overhead camera, then back to the default, and you're still in Movement mode but you can't move anything. You can get out of it by toggling through the modes.|
Man, I still haven't got near enough dough to unlock anything cool.