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Inferno Pool Review

6 June 2009

Manchester-based developer Dark Energy Digital has dared to be a little more creative than most with its latest PSN offering, Inferno Pool. While it could have focused solely on getting the core gameplay mechanics right, ensuring that the law of pool physics had been applied correctly, it has in addition to those things successfully injected this indoor sport of hustlers with a bit of “pazaaz.”

As well as offering the classic 8 and 9 ball pool modes, Inferno Pool also features ‘Inferno’ mode, an intensely competitive game designed specifically with frantic multiplayer action in mind. While each of these three game modes can be played offline, Inferno Pool is an insular solo experience. It's a game that is meant to be played against friends and online opponents, who should get some satisfaction out of the fierce competition created by its fiery, fast-paced, four-player ‘Inferno’ mode.

Though the two classic game modes provide a near-faultless pool simulation, offering everything that you'd hope to see from the genre including finely-tuned cue control, impressive ball physics, and the ability to pan cameras around and over the table to line-up your next shot, there’s nothing particularly exciting or engaging about the gameplay. It’s quite simply a very good game of pool. Where Inferno Pool really excels, however, is in the aforementioned ‘Inferno’ mode.

As with the two classic game modes, ‘Inferno’ mode allows up to four players, via local multiplayer or online, to play against each other simultaneously. The aim of the game is simple. You need to pot all of your balls on your table, or as many as you possibly can, before the timer runs out. The person with the least balls on the table when the timer expires is the winner. 'Inferno' mode adds a new tactical layer to the proceedings though, with some clever features that keeps things exciting, fast-paced and ultra competitive.

Each time you pot a ball you can send it over to an opponent’s table, or alternatively, store them up in your bazooka, stockpiling them to unleash on another player at a later time. The action takes place in split-screen mode, so you can see each of your opponents taking their shots. Each player has a color assigned to him that corresponds to a face button on the controller. This means that you can pick and choose which player’s table to sabotage with your potted balls. There's nothing worse than getting down to your final ball and then being bombarded and ganged up on by your three opponents, who send their balls flying your way. But when it's the other way round and your behind, it's entertaining to hear their gasps of exasperation as you sabotage their table.

That alone is entertaining enough, but just firing balls around the tables would have meant that skillful players were being penalized time and time again. Thankfully, there's another tactical layer that levels things out and ensures that skillful players are rewarded for their efforts. A point scoring system comes into play where players are awarded for combos and different shots. You can perform kick, jump and bank shots, all of which will give you points that go onto your final tally at the end of the game and determine your position on the global leaderboard. It's not easy trying to hit a cushion before you pot a ball, or planting a ball onto another to sink it, but if you're willing to take the risk then you'll soon be able to fill up your Inferno meter and unleash the devastating Inferno mode. The screen flashes, your table turns red and a further ball is removed for every ball that you pot from this point forth. It's a great way to clear the table at speed.

In 'Inferno' mode there's a lot more to think about then just potting balls. With the timer ticking down to zero you have to make quick decisions about whether to go for skill shots, or just pot as quickly as you can, or which table to send your potted balls to. Of course, you also have to contend with what your opponents are up to. You can see their scores getting higher and their bazookas getting full, so the combination of all these gameplay elements can really get the adrenaline pumping.

Outside of 'Inferno' mode there's actually very little to do. Well, very little that will keep you immersed. Inferno Pool slots firmly into the casual gaming market; a party game that lacks a decent array of offline game modes, but excels in the online arena. It's retro-look means that it's not the prettiest game on the PSN and some of the table colors occasionally clash with the color of the balls making it difficult to see what's going on, especially when you're screen is divided into four. But, considering its low price tag, Inferno Pool definitely represents good value for money. The accessibility of the 'Inferno' mode and the excitement it generates when four of you are playing should be enough to keep you amused.

-The Final Word-

An enjoyable, retro-infused pool game with a fiery multiplayer twist.
  • Inferno Mode, in which some innovative features make for an exciting game of pool
  • Playing with friends and sabotaging their game
  • The impressive ball physics
  • The lack of excitement outside of multiplayer 'Inferno' mode
  • Some of the garish table colors, which can make balls hard to see
7.0
Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3
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