Reviewed: April 27, 2007
Released: April 18, 2007
I love pool. I’ve been playing since I can remember, which is about 38 years, and all ego aside, I’m very good at it. There was even a period of time where I was hustling…ahem…playing pool to pay the rent. I also love hot women, although I’m much better with the former than the latter. So naturally, when you combine two great things you should get somthing that is…well, twice as great. Hey, it worked for Reese’s.
When I heard that Eidos, was releasing a Mature rated pool game I instantly had flashbacks to BMX XXX; that infamous title from Acclaim that was so raunchy Dave Mirra sued to have his name removed. I had visions of playing strip 8-ball and watching sexy women bend over the table in decreasing amounts of clothing, but after only a few hours of playing Pocket Pool I quickly realized this game is neither for adults or fans of pool.
Let’s get started with the gameplay, or rather the lack thereof. Pocket Pool delivers all the expected variations of pool and even a few new ones I’ve never heard of including Practice, Time Attack (sink 9 balls as fast as you can), Bonus 8 Ball, Classic 8 Ball, 9 Ball, 10 Ball, 15 Ball, Straight Pool, Rotation, Blackjack, Full Snooker, Short Snooker, and Killer.
Since most of these games are two-player you can choose to play a randomly assigned super model or make use of the Wi-Fi Ad-Hoc mode. Of course this assumes you hustled somebody into getting their own copy of the game, in which case you should probably investigate a career as a professional con man. Shockingly, there is no support for passing the PSP back and forth, which means that each and every person on the design team needs to be beaten repeatedly with a cue stick.
Bring on the bar sluts…err…super models. No disrespect to the girls who posed for this game…I’m sure you all had rent to pay, but you should really get a new pimp…err…agent. There are 20 hot women who decorate the various menus and setup screens. During the game you will be graced with a single headshot for whichever girl you end up playing. There is a 20+ page gallery that will display additional photos and movies of these women in various states of undress, assuming you can tolerate the shoddy gameplay long enough to unlock any of them.
There are also five stereotypical guy characters, obviously played by members of the production staff, giving the entire game a “Beauty and the Geek” vibe…not that I watch that show…often. These guys talk as much smack as the girls talk smut. Sadly, their vocal repertoire is as repetitive as their cheesy mug shots.
Despite my advanced standing as a local pool shark I figured I’d take the tutorial for a spin just to see how this particular game wanted me to play pool on the PSP. I was greeted by Isabelle, who was taking some time off from working the 976-SEX-MEUP hot line. Her sultry voice nearly melted my PSP and made me feel just a bit naughty for playing this game. Then she started going overboard with double entrandes and it just got so silly and I couldn’t stop laughing. Use the up and down buttons to raise and lower your stick…OH! I see yours is already “raised”. Or the classic, Oh, you look like you are about ready to shoot, followed by directions on how to make a shot followed by, doesn’t that feel better.
This not-so-witty banter continues throughout the entire game with all sorts of talk about sticks and balls. Beavis and Butthead would love this game. One of Biagio’s three lines when a girl misses a shot is, I thought you’d be better with balls. BWAHAHAHA!!! Oh Biagio…you tear me up. Now go put some more mousse in your hair.
I would be quick to overlook the juvenile sex-banter if there was a respectable pool game lurking beneath the smut, but even the core game of pool is broke beyond repair. Let’s start with three levels of physics, which dictate how fast the balls move on the felt. I’ve played on brand new tables (slow) and old worn out tables (fast) and the difference of speed and momentum is noticeable but not as vast as represented in Pocket Pool.
On slow speed you will be lucky to make a ball hit a cushion on the break with maximum power (a foul by the way), and on medium speed all the balls slow down quite quickly and unnaturally like brakes are being applied. Of course if you ever wondered what it would be like to play pool on the moon you can opt for fast speed where you might need to recharge your PSP battery before the balls stop moving. There is no happy median and nothing that borders on reality.
If speed weren’t issue enough the actually math used to calculate angles is wrong. I loved geometry in school (probably part of why I love pool) and even one of Jeff Foxworthy’s 5th graders (oops, I just dated this review with a pop-culture reference) can tell you that if you drive a ball into a cushion at 45-degrees it will exit at an opposite 45-degrees (90-degrees total). So why is it that my balls are flying around at all crazy angles? (no, that’s not a line from the game but it could have been)
Preparing your shot and actually taking it are easy enough, although not that intuitive. The circle and square buttons allow you to put English (spin) on the ball or move the stick around the cue ball. You can use the left and right triggers to cycle through six cameras including a first-person view, top view, and all four sides. There is no 3D free-floating camera. You can also zoom the camera in and out of each view by holding the X and using the triggers.
Once you have your shot lined up you can adjust the power by holding circle and using the analog stick to set the power meter then while holding circle push right on the D-pad. Yeah…not so intuitive at all. By eliminating the analog error factor in taking your shot you pretty much lock the game down to fixed variables and settings. It’s more about science than skill.
Even more interesting is watching the computer play. First off, the computer will “think” forever unless you interrupt it by hitting the X button. I’d love to see the calculations going on behind the scenes. It has to be something worthy of NASA’s mainframes because once these girls actually take a shot it is pure geometric magic. There can be a ball six inches from the hole with the cue ball two feet from that ball and the computer will literally shoot in the opposite direction, ricocheting the ball off two, three, or even four rails before striking the ball and sinking it. And this isn’t a rare occurrence. In my first three games the computer never directly struck the ball – it always went rail first.
Despite the trick-shot mentality of the computer AI the game is sadly lacking any trick-shot mode, or a career mode, or any type of structured gameplay for that matter. You merely select and play a single game of your choosing. There is no character creation or development or any real substance to the gameplay. There is also little adherence to the rules of pool, especially when it comes to fouls and ball-in-hand.
Obviously, this game is all about the women. It certainly isn’t about pool. The images are clear and appear to be taken by a professional photographer and the costumes are sexy, but at no time do the girls get naked, so I’m not sure why the game even got the Mature rating unless it was a blatant deception by the marketing people to make you “think” there might be nudity if you played long enough.
The gallery features still photos and movies, although the movies are pretty lame and the photos are…well, just photos, with no ability to zoom or pan around. Speaking of panning around, the lack of a 3D camera can be a problem as well. I tend to play from the top view camera and even when fully zoomed out the table fits the PSP screen perfectly, which means that HUD icons and player portraits are blocking my view of the two bottom corner pockets. This happens in the first-person view as well but not as often. You can toggle the HUD with the Select button, but you can’t make any adjustments until you bring it back, so it is a huge annoyance.
The pool tables are nice and you can unlock some interesting felt designs as well as new pool venues, sticks, and balls…maybe even the set on the guy who approved this game for release. Naw…those are way too big. Ball colors are off, so the orange 5 looks like the yellow 1, and for some reason the stupid game doesn’t line up your next shot with the next “required” ball in a game like 9-ball. There is a ball ID feature you can use from the pop-up menu at the top accessed with the triangle button.
The music is pretty lame with a lot of guitar rock and quasi-jazz riffs you might hear from a 70's porn film…so I’m told. You can pick your music for each round of pool, but sadly, you can’t play your own MP3’s, so your best option is to turn off the music in the menu.
The girls all have top-notch phone sex voices, which is good because that is probably the only work they are going to get if they list this game on their resume. The guys…well who cares about them. Nobody has much to say when it comes to variety, so if you play this game for any length of time you’ll hear repeat dialogue. It’ll repeat even during your first game. Interestingly enough, there are only eight people credited with voice work, so I have to wonder if I’m even hearing the actual girls I’m looking at speak.
$30 is just way too much for a broken game with a bunch of girls who are out to tease you with sultry dialogue and skimpy outfits. If you want to play pool on your PSP then at least you can play The Hustle: Detroit Streets. It’s not much of a pool game either, but it’s a whole lot better than this and can be found for $19 or less.
The lack of "pass-the-PSP" multiplayer is unforgivable and frankly, I don’t want to be within Wi-Fi range of anybody who was dumb enough to buy this game. With no career mode, no trick shots, or anything else for that matter, we are left with a quasi-peepshow that can easily be recreated with a visit to maxim.com
Pocket Pool started off with an interesting premise. We all know that sex sells, especially when it comes to nerdy, dateless, video gamers. But when you use sex to sell a totally broken and dysfunctional game built on a sport that I truly love, well, you have gone too far.
If you were thinking about buying this game then hopefully I have saved you $30. If you were going to rent it…rent something else, and if I didn’t get to you in time and you are already wallowing in self-pity and despair, stay out of my Wi-Fi bubble. I’m not playing with you. It’s called Pocket Pool, so go play with yourself.