by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
A lazy game got even lazier
There’s something about the game of pool I find alluring. The geometry aspect speaks to my mind, and yet it’s not seen as nerdy. In fact, it’s even a ‘sport’! I wouldn’t classify myself as sporty any more. I was in my youth. But I can sit around a table with the most strenuous activity being having to bend over slightly, and I’m playing a sport? That’s a winner in my book. Anyway, now you don’t even have to bend over, because Pure Pool has rolled onto Steam.
This is one of those times where, as a reviewer, you have to sit back and tell yourself to be objective about things. It’s just a pool game right? How different from other pool games can it be? You as the reader have to bear this in mind too. Think to yourself “Do I want to play a game where all you do is play pool?”. If the answer is no, then you may as well stop reading right now, because let me tell you, this pool is pure.
8-ball and 9-ball are the main game types you have. 8-ball you probably know as “spots and stripes” or some equivalent, where you each take half the balls and pot them all before battling over the final black. 9-ball is slightly different in that each player has to pot the numbered balls in order, ending on the 9. But you’ve made it this far, so you probably already knew that. Let’s get onto some of the game types you may not have heard of.
Hit and miss
‘Killer’ is an aggressively named mode where each player has three lives. They take turns attempting to pot any ball on the table. If they don’t pot anything, they lose a life. If they manage to pot two balls, or the black, in one shot, they gain a life. It’s simple to begin with, but as the table clears it becomes more and more tactical. You need to think about your shots in the opposite way to normal. “How can I pot this ball and then leave no other shots available?” If all the balls are potted, they’re re-racked and the players go again until one player runs out of lives. While it sounds like a cool concept, it actually ended up being my least favourite of the modes, simply because it could take forever.
‘Accumulator’ is another mode which is not as good in practice as it seems on paper. You must pot the balls in numerical order, and you get the number of points on each one you pot. However, the early game becomes useless when you consider how much higher value balls have later on. Games get out of hand (and unrecoverable) very quickly. ‘Speed pot’ is exactly as you’d imagine, a quickfire, single player game where you have to clear the table as fast as possible. ‘Royal Rumble’ is a variant on this where new balls get added to the table incrementally. ‘Perfect potter’ is a mode where you need to pot balls in a row without missing. ‘Checkpoint’ has you potting as many balls as you can within a time limit.
And that’s about it for game modes. They’re not very imaginative, and when Wikipedia (fountain of all knowledge) tells me that there are hundreds of different pool games, these meagre few are a little disappointing. There isn’t even a trick shot mode, which is surely a mainstay of anything pool related. I know it’s ‘Pure’ Pool, but come on, can’t we have a little fun?
This purity comes over to the control system. I’d advise playing with a gamepad, just because the pull back and shoot forward on the stick controls are a lot more intuitive. Holding down a button allows you to apply spin to the cue ball. Holding another allows you to stand up and move the camera around the table. However the only camera angles you’ll be getting are those you’d get if the camera were attached to your face. It actually does immerse you pretty well, even if the camera controls are a little swimmy. You do get aiming lines, one for where the target ball will go and one for the cue ball, but they become more transparent the further away from the ball you are. Plus, attempting a fine cut will only provide you with a vague cone as opposed to a line.
The obscurity can make things difficult, particularly when you’re trying to get out of a snooker. If you’re aiming at a cushion and the target ball is not on screen, you’re going to be hard pressed to actually hit it unless you know the actual angles of a pool table. Standing up and looking round removes your aiming lines, so that’s no help. Another complaint is the inverted control axes. I turned both Y and X inversion off for aiming, but it apparently never changes for moving the cue ball around the table after a foul. Infuriating!
Those are the only real complaints though. The physics are good. Hit the ball too hard with too much spin and it’s likely to go flying off the table. Only once did this break the game, with the cue ball somehow being stuck on the corner, outside the confines of the baize. It still let me take a shot, and the ball went flying up into the air. Other than that, the game works well. The AI is fine, although not very varied. They sometimes make very strange decisions, particularly when placing a fouled cue ball, and they occasionally take an unreasonable amount of time to make an easy pot. However, they are challenging. Make a mistake and it could be game over as you watch them clean up.
A decent time killer
Visually, it looks good. I can’t see how balls rolling around a table can look any better these days. The game takes place in a very classy looking cocktail bar, with darkened people in the background conversing. You can choose from a number of different table colours and skins, and you unlock new cues as you progress through the career mode. Relaxing jazz plays throughout, and while it was nice, I found that the game was best played as a sideshow to me watching something on TV or listening to my own music.
Pure Pool certainly lives up to its name. It’s not the kind of game you’re going to spend hours and hours at a time playing, unless you’re really into the sport. As a quick time killer, or as a gentle distraction while you’re doing something else, it’s about as good as you can get for a pool game. Lack of variety and a few annoying technical things prevent it from being great though.
The pool is definitely pure. Good physics, nice visuals.
Not a great deal of variety in game modes. Some technical annoyances.