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Pool Nation Review (PSN)

A nation that is hard to conquer.

Pool Nation was originally released on Xbox Live around the end of last year by CherryPop Games. The game is the developer’s first title and now Pool Nation is coming over to PSN. What has been created is an incredibly good looking yet often frustrating pool game; one in which you are expected to be amazing at pool, just like the AI.

The single player portion of Pool Nation is divided into a Tour mode, where you have the option to play either 8 Ball or 9 Ball, and an Endurance mode. A Tutorial is also available to help get to grips with the basic controls, as well as learning different tricks to use against opponents. I definitely advise playing the tutorial to learn the different tactics.

Different faces, same play style.
The Tour Mode serves as the main campaign of Pool Nation pitting you against various characters in a selection of four different locations where you compete to win the tournament of that area.

It’s a pretty simple affair in that you have to beat your current opponent in order to move on to the next one, though each match does have extra challenges for you to complete, such as getting a streak of potted balls or performing a trick shot.

Completing these challenges isn’t mandatory but they do affect your score and completing them unlocks bonus matches.

The bonus matches have different rules to either 8 Ball or 9 Ball pool where, instead of having to beat the opponent in a standard match, you have to complete a task. This could be either using the fewest shots to clear a table or clearing the table in the quickest time. These bonus matches then allow you to unlock new cue sets, ball sets or table decals.

However, despite the different characters the game pretty much plays the same, with no style differences between the avatars. The only real style the AI knows is brutal efficiency.

Time and time again I would start a match breaking first. The AI would then take its turn and manage to pot everything it needed to win the match without allowing me to have another turn. If this was a rare occurrence then I could live with it, but it was common enough that the cynic in me might believe it was done on purpose, to add length to the single player.

The only real chance you’ll have to win is by using Aim Assist. I tried to play without it but it was pretty much impossible.

The Aim Assist can be set to either Novice, Veteran or Pro with each setting giving you more or less information. Novice will show you exactly where the balls will go, Veteran will give you a little less information on the route and Pro the least information, though still enough to have a chance against the AI.

The other side of the single player is Endurance mode, a survival style mini game that’s a lot of fun. Basically balls are added to the table after a small time period, with the aim being to pot them before the limit of 24 pool balls on the table has been reached.

It starts off quite simply but the time between new additions decreases the longer you survive. There is some respite in that, at certain points, the game will freeze allowing you to pot without more additions to the table, though this period only lasts a few seconds.

Pool Nation looks stunning.
As for multiplayer, both local and online variations are included. The online was obviously empty pre-release, but as far as I could see it is exactly the same as the local multiplayer in the game types it offers. You have the 8 Ball and 9 Ball as standard but there are other game types including Killer, Golf, 3 Ball, Rotation, Speed and Straight, all offering different challenges for you and your opponent.

Killer gives you three lives and if you fail to pot a ball on your turn, you lose a life. Lose all three lives and you lose the game.

In Golf you have to pot your ball in each pocket in order to win, while in 3 Ball you have to get the 3 different balls potted with the fewest shots possible.

Speed is all about time and clearing the table as quickly as possible, while Rotation and Straight are points-based games that differ as to how you get those points. In Rotation you can pot any ball with the person getting to 61 points first winning, whereas in Straight the person to pot 30 balls first wins.

Stylistically, Pool Nation looks gorgeous and is one of the best looking games I’ve seen this gen, with venues looking crisp. There are two main camera angles which give you a view, either down the cue or an overhead view of the whole table. Using both during play is necessary, with a change of camera angle coming at the press of the triangle button.

While the music is also pretty good, overall Pool Nation feels a bit clinical and could do with a bit more atmosphere to lift it.

What’s Good:

  • Incredibly good looking game.
  • Decent amount of game types in multiplayer.
  • Endurance Mode is brilliant.

What’s Bad:

  • Aggressive AI meaning you can lose a match without taking a shot
  • No real differing styles between AI opponents.

Pool Nation’s strengths lie in the multiplayer and Endurance mode. Both of these offer a good challenge and playing either with friends is a competitive joy. The single player tour mode is let down by the AI which doesn’t give you a chance. Any time you do get a turn, it almost feels like the AI is pitying you. If that were more balanced then this would be almost perfect, but with an introductory price of £4.99 (£2.99 for Plus subscribers), Pool Nation is worth picking up if you want to play something simple.

Score: 7/10

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  1. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    Thing is with cue games, once you’ve played one you’ve played them all. Hustle kings have me all I needed from a pool game.

    Comment posted on 22/05/2013 at 12:55.
  2. TSBonyman
    Since: Dec 2009

    I thought it looked pretty tasty and especially at that price. But i think i’ll stick with Hustle Kings – which i’ll probably never complete but enjoy dipping into on both PS3 and Vita.

    Comment posted on 22/05/2013 at 13:04.
  3. KittDJW
    Since: Forever

    I also agree with the other two comments Hustle Kings is more than good enough for my Pool and Snooker needs as it also looks great and plays extremely well.

    Comment posted on 22/05/2013 at 13:49.
  4. Broonba
    Since: Mar 2009

    Hustle Kings is my no 1 choice on PS3 and Vita. Nuff said.

    Comment posted on 22/05/2013 at 16:12.
  5. Broonba
    Since: Mar 2009

    ^^ Sorry for sounding a bit like a dick ^^ :D

    Comment posted on 22/05/2013 at 16:13.
  6. freezebug2
    Since: Dec 2008

    Bought it with plus discount and had a quick go with the tutorial and it has been very impressive what I’ve seen so far. Lovely graphics and table/ball physics, can’t really go wrong for for 3 squids! ;)

    Comment posted on 23/05/2013 at 09:40.
    • freezebug2
      Since: Dec 2008

      and and for for….sorry Jeez, I need a coffee!!

      Comment posted on 23/05/2013 at 09:42.

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