Review: Inferno Pool

When I first read that Inferno Pool was to be developed for the PSN by Dark Energy Digital, I was both curious and worried about how this was going to ruin or improve the great traditional British pub game that is Pool. However, our interview with Rob Hewson of Dark Energy made us aware of just how much thought and effort has gone into this title, and how confident the team were about bending the rules and adding a little spice to the game of drunken kings.

Well I can tell you that this game is awesome, whether or not you like and indeed play pool, this game will still provide you with an unrivalled amount of multiplayer mayhem and competitive fun.

Traditionally pool is fairly simple, just sink all the balls belonging to one of two colours, drop the black in a pocket of your choice, put another 50p down on the table whilst grabbing another beer and await your turn.  Players could get technical with trick shots and lining the cue ball up for the next shot, but the concept is simple.

Whilst Dark Energy failed to include the beer, no doubt due to limitations of the hardware, they did give us Inferno mode.  In this mode up to four players can compete in an intense new take on the way to beat your opponents: the objective to sink all your coloured balls remains the same, but each ball you sink can then be launched to an opponents table or saved in your “ball-zooka”, allowing you to send a barrage of balls to any or all opponents.  There is so much fun to be had storing up all that ammo and then unleashing it on any player about to sink their last ball, listening them curse as they now have another table worth of balls to pot is priceless and warrants a smug smile.  But beware that sinking the white will cause you to lose all that hard earned inferno goodness.

It is annoying and can get very intense when you receive a volley of balls and you rush to try and keep your table clear, however, this is where the clever bit comes in.  You have a bar at the bottom that fills up with fire as you pot successive shots and mix things up with bank shots, kick shots and sink multiple balls with one strike of the cue ball.  When this bar fills up, your table and environment glows red and you enter Inferno mode.  Whilst in Inferno you have a chance to destroy your opponents, as for each ball you pot – another will be taken off the table, effectively a two for one offering.  Within seconds you can clear your table and send any opponent looking dangerously close to victory straight to last place.  The game is not over until it is over.

Inferno Pool can be played with up to 4 players, local and online, and offers various ways to play.  In addition to the Inferno Pool mode you can play a straight eight or nine ball pool match, and even play in race mode with first to clear their table winning the match.  There is also a tense endurance mode in single player that will test both you skill and your nerves.  Dark Digital wisely gave us a practice mode too, which is highly recommended for anyone looking to compete with the best.  This is a good pick up and play game, but will certainly set apart those that have mastered the speedy techniques and skill shots from those expecting to win with a casual and relaxed play style.  When playing any more than two opponents you can send any balls potted to any individual in the game, insisting you keep a sharp eye on the strong players and attempt to make it difficult for them to win the match.

The graphics are nice, with the environments consisting of exposed brick and rough metal, and the tables having worn edges and stains on the baize, giving the feeling of an underground retro bar location.  The game runs at 60 frames a second never dropping a frame even when playing 4 way multiplayer.  The ball physics are fantastic, it never feels scripted or too arcade-like and I’ve never felt cheated out of a shot due to a flaw in the simulation.  The colours are lush and vibrant, with the option to customize both the balls and table colours and patterns.

It sounds how you would expect any game of pool to sound, with cue hitting cue ball and smashing into all other balls.  The music consists of a retro dance theme and can get a bit repetitive, though you may not hear it over all the swearing and abuse you are likely to get from other players as you destroy their hopes of a victory.  The announcer has that deep Unreal voice that makes everyone aware of what is happening, and it is always satisfying to hear “Inferno” or “legendary” shouted when you pot a masterful skill shot.

This game is great, and a quick couple of matches can soon become a night in trying to get revenge or prove how pitiful your opponent’s efforts to destroy you are.  I will say it can get a little repetitive, and that DLC offering a few new game modes such as competing for most skill points in a match would be most welcome.  But as it stands Inferno Pool is a great arcade title that pool enthusiasts and anyone just looking for a party game will really enjoy.  It is without doubt the best pool game I have played, and next time I am down the pub it will be hard avoiding the temptation to throw balls on to adjacent tables shouting “inferno” and “legendary”.

A great new way to play pool, a great way to play straight pool, and a great way to get friends playing together.  It needs just a little more variety, but with no other faults it is an essential purchase from the Playstation Network Store and a demonstration of the quality we should now come to expect from Dark Energy Digital.

Score: 9/10