Review – Pool Nation

By: Louis Edwards

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It’s time to head to the pool hall, chalk up your cue and rack up the balls. Pool Nation has been released on the PlayStation Network and we have run the table. Is the game worth your time and money, or is it just another physics challenged disappointment?

Read our review to find out.

Billiards has been around for a long time and it hasn’t always had great success in video games due to the inability for others to replicate the physics and geometry behind it. As a true billiards fan, and someone that grew up with a pool cue in my hand, I’m not easily fooled when it comes to the way the balls roll across a table and how they are affected by the spin of the cue ball. It’s not everyday that a game rolls around that can mimic real life in a way that seems as true as the real thing. Pool Nation does that and looks fantastic doing it at a very low price of $8.49 (PS+ $5.09).

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The physics behind the actual shots are spot on. English (the spin on the ball and not the language) is almost too perfect. In real life, being able to hit that spot perfectly every time is no easy task, but with Pool Nation, everyone can be a pool shark. Aiming aids are available, and these come in handy while you are starting out. Once you get the hang of it, though, not turning them off feels like cheating. This is how the difficulty levels are dealt with. Novice is by far the simplest way to play and learn, but going Pro or turning the aids off will force you to line everything up in your head.

There are many ways to play billiards and Pool Nation gives you nine different game modes to choose from. There’s your standard 8 Ball and 9 Ball, but there’s also some of my personal favorites. 3 Ball is a quick and fun way to pass the time and whoever sinks all three in the lowest number of shots wins, but if you are in the for the long haul, go like Minnesota Fats and Fast Eddie in a Straight Pool match. Each ball potted gives you one point, and when you’re playing to thirty, that means racking up fourteen more balls every time you get down to one ball left. You’ll have to sink that one while simultaneously breaking the new rack if you want to have a chance at another clear shot.

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Rotation is an entertaining way to play and will force you to start thinking two and three shots ahead if you actually want to win. In Rotation you’ll have to sink the balls in numerical order, lowest to highest, with each ball worth it’s face value. First shooter to 61 wins. Knowing where your cue ball will end up after each shot, and knowing where the balls are in order, is the key to victory. It would be nice if there was a single player practice mode using Rotation as a guide. This is how I learned to set up my next shots as a kid, and is very helpful regardless of the game mode you prefer.

Golf is an interesting mode that is new to me and very fun to play. Each shooter has one ball placed on the spot and must sink that ball in every pocket. The first person to sink a ball in all six pockets wins. Sounds simple enough, but the cue ball is left wherever it lies after the last shot. This can give your opponent a chance to be a butt head and give you a bad leave, in turn making your next shot all but impossible.

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Speed mode  and Killer mode are also new modes for me. In Speed mode it’s just a matter of sinking all of the balls, with the 8 ball being last, as quickly as possible. Whoever does it the fastest wins. Killer mode will have you and your opponent taking turns making a shot. You are given three lives and missing a shot will cost you one. A scratch costs two, so be sure not to let that cue ball fall in a pot.

If you are ready to play against a real person, Online play gives you all of the offline modes to try out or you can grab a second controller and just play someone on your couch in Versus mode. If you are going to play on the couch with a friend, though, it would only be fair to at least let them practice for a bit first. No point in playing if there’s at least not a little competition.

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Developer CherryPop Games has done an excellent job of taking a real world game, that is heavy on physics and geometry, and matched it in every way in a video game. Playing with balls may seem like an easy task to emulate, but that’s not really the case.

Great job CherryPop. Pool Nation is outstanding!

9.5

The Final Verdict

ProsCons

  • Outstanding physics
  • Outstanding graphics
  • Best billiards video game to date

  • Where's snooker?

VerdictA fun game at a great price
Rating
95%
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