I grew up playing pool. Literally, I would go to a local bar that allowed me to play on their tables for free and I would play for hours. I have participated in tournaments, taught people to play, and have likely played every pool game ever made. If I missed one, believe me it was an accident. So, when this review came up, I jumped at the chance to review it and I can honestly say I am glad I did.
Pool Nation is not just another pool game. Really, it isn’t, it is the pool game that all others should be judged by from this point onward. It is the first offering from developer Cherry Pop, and a damn good one at that. The game is packed with stunning visuals, great physics (more on that later), and environments that will immediately capture your attention. Visually the game is a knockout. The ball textures, lighting from the environment, even the tables are all top notch. When making a special shot that the game feels you need a closer look at, you are treated to an ultra-textured close up view of the action that, at times, can look real. The environments are colorful and well rendered also, but really you can see the focus was on the table where it should be.
As I stated, I have played pool in a ton of locales and venues. As part of that experience, I have gotten to see all manners of tables and how they interact with the balls. Without hesitation, I can say this game comes as close as you can get to a realistic experience. However, there are a couple of complaints. First, the pockets are tighter than tournament level tables, even on the beginning tables. If you haven’t played pool, a tight pocket means it is just small enough to allow the ball through, and has hard bumpers that tend to “kick” the ball out rather than let it rattle and fall. I found myself screaming at the screen when my ball would hang on the edge of a pocket. Secondly, the rails, or sides, of the table seem to be made of foam. They are stiff enough to make a nice long rail shot, but achieving a bank shot along the length of the table is a tough task. It seems the rails don’t kick the ball off quite hard enough to make these shots reliably. That is not altogether unrealistic, as I have played on tables like that, but other pool sims allowed you to adjust the hardness of the rails to suit your playing style. Other than these two small complaints, you will find the physics engine is very convincing.
The game is spread out over a nice variety of modes, all centered around a long, long, long standard mode. Get used to restarting your match, or not even taking a shot as the computer opponents rarely make a mistake, and definitely capitalize on you making one. There are side missions that will unlock cues, players, etc., allowing you to customize your experience. There are 8-ball modes, 9-ball, and straight pool along with some others that you would expect in a pool game. The endurance mode, or excuse to drink heavily from stress game mode as I call it, is a fast and furious game that will leave you on the edge. We have been told that later as DLC, there will be a mode to enable a trick shot feature where you will be able to set up and practice shots. I was saddened this wasn’t in this release, but we have been assured it is coming. There is an online mode as well, challenging other players in a lag free, zero delay game.
This highly polished, stylish pool game will have you racking up hundreds of hours of play time. With the intense level of increasing difficulty, top notch graphics and sounds, and pending DLC to expand your play experience, this is one game not to be missed.