In stocking the PlayStation Vita’s PSN Store, Sony seems to have attempted to find games that will either show off the device’s capabilities or play on the smaller, more accessible requirements of playing games on a portable device. Hustle Kings hits both those targets while also carrying some brand loyalty for those familiar with the PS3 version of the game, but does it translate well to a small screen and how convenient are those new control surfaces?
The most striking thing about Hustle Kings is how faithful to the HD PlayStation 3 version it is. Obviously, the resolution is cut down for the Vita but you have to really look hard to notice that it’s not quite the equal of its big brother, at least on the table. Backdrops and scenery are a little more obvious in their handheld setting but still perfectly acceptable.
Whatever you do, don't chip the cue ball off the table... we'll be soaked.
Along with Cross Play, there are plentiful other multiplayer options, including online and Ad Hoc modes as well as an asynchronous mode called Message Play which sends you a message when it’s your turn.
Hustle Kings plays host to multiple different pool games, including US 8-ball, 9-ball and the familiar UK pub game with red and yellow balls, although snooker and billiards are missing (we assume they will be DLC again when the store goes up). There is also a plethora of trick shots to attempt and game modes to play, along with a nice tutorial section which teaches you the basics by making you play through examples.
The career mode will be the principle single player focus for most. In this mode you play different challenges. That might involve a playing a frame of a certain game type against an opponent but it might also involve clearing the table before a timer runs out or performing a specific trick shot. Completing the challenges will unlock more to play as well as award you with new peripheral bits and pieces like avatars.
As you go along, you will earn HKC — the game’s currency — which will allow you to buy better equipment and different ball sets. You must also use your earned HKC to buy into certain events, effectively making a wager that you’ll be successful.
That aiming aiming line is invaluable for newcomers but it can be switched off.
As you unlock more difficult opponents though, things spike quite drastically and suddenly you’ll find yourself seemingly up against Paul Newman in The Hustler. It feels quite punishing but the trick is to learn during those early, easy matches. Rather than just rattle through them, you’re supposed to be exploring spin and curve, learning how best to position yourself for the next shot.
The Vita’s new control methods are well served by Hustle Kings, with the touchscreen being a viable option for aiming, as well as providing an analogue method of cueing your shots. There are multiple control options, and the touch surface stuff is easy to ignore. If you want to, though, you can manually cue your shots by pulling back and forth on the screen.
It adds an extra layer of interactivity and realism while also making the game much more difficult. Gyro controls can be used to look around the table too, which is reasonably useful when it comes to assessing your positioning.
- Perfectly suited to shorts bursts but enough to support longer periods of play too.
- Career mode will keep single players going — and learning — for a long time.
- Cross Play and the other competitive modes are a delight.
- If you’re only looking for pool, this is a great rendition of the game.
- If you’ve owned the PS3 version for a while, it’s nothing surprising.
- Sound and some presentational aspects are lacking.
- A lot of game modes which will be additional DLC, increasing cost for those that opt in.
Hustle Kings is a great game to have in a portable format. It lends itself perfectly to the kind of gaming which is most popular on handhelds — short bursts of easily accessible gameplay with uncomplicated controls. The multiplayer systems are great and Cross Play works wonderfully.
It’s a shame that the additional game modes, which arrived as DLC on the PS3 version, aren’t in there from the start but this is affordable enough that optional DLC isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Especially for those that already have this on the home console and can simply copy it across to their new Vita memory card. In more ways than many that have made the claim, Hustle Kings really is a full console game in your pocket.