Pool Nation (PSN) Review – You Will Want to Smack These Balls

Released back in October for Xbox Live Arcade, Pool Nation has made its way on to the PlayStation Network. This is the first title for indie developer CherryPop Games. We’re a little late to the party with the review but you know what? We like parties and this one’s a surprisingly good time.

Admittedly, I can count the number of pool video games I’ve played on one hand. Pool isn’t the first type of game I associate with video games. Now that I think about it I’m surprised no one has tried to mesh the game and motion control together. The game play in Pool Nation is impressively deep with the controller alone. I wasn’t expecting the depth of shotmaking that is found here.

Two single player campaigns pit the player through a series of 8- and 9-ball matches against AI opponents. With a total of eleven to speak of, match types are plentiful. Matches each come with their own set of challenges which, in turn, earn unlockables. Unlocks include such things as new balls sets, new cues and new table graphics among others. This is a nice touch that adds replayability. The most unique game mode to speak of is perhaps the Endurance mode.  Endurance simply pits the player against the clock in an effort to sink as many balls as possible.  Not only are you fighting the clock, balls continue to appear for you to sink. This is one of those just-one-try types of game modes that will keep you playing for longer than you probably should.

The depth of game play I mentioned earlier is spurred by the accessibility of the controls. They’re both intuitive and offer a nice range of abilities for different skill levels of player. It all plays sort of similarly to Tiger Woods golf in how hard you can make it, how you aim, impart spin on the ball and strike the ball. I’ve never been a fan of the dead zone on the thumb sticks of the PS3 controller. I find it too difficult to be precise. Not here though. I found the acceleration of how you aim in relation to the movement of the thumb stick to be well within reason. You can even use the shoulder buttons for more precise aiming. A good set of tutorial lessons serves to not only teach you how to pull off the various shot types but also demonstrates the depth of game play in Pool Nation. Thankfully there’s no Move implementation here. Pool Nation can be enjoyed entirely with butt firmly planted on the couch.

A good selection of multi-player games types (6 compared to the 11 solo modes) are available for both local and online play. Unfortunately my time with the game hasn’t allowed me to play online just yet.

The first thing that stands out visually when playing Pool Nation are the reflections of the balls. They’re so over-the-top perfectly clean and shiny it feels like almost like a tech demo. CherryPop even goes as far as to boast pridefully about this effect on their website (which I love). While occasional effects impress with their detail, the rest of the game certainly doesn’t come close to taxing the PS3 hardware. That’s not to say it looks bad though. There’s only so much you can do with a pool table, you know? I must say the various environments in which you play are pretty cool.

Pool Nation’s jazzy, ambient sounding soundtrack fits well with the mood and pace of the game as well as the various locales where you play. Pool isn’t the most sound-intensive game around but from the roll of the balls over the felt and slate to the crack of the break it all sounds pretty authentic.

For a downloadable title that costs under $10 Pool Nation is good fun, especially if you’re a fan of the game of pool. That’s certainly not the only criteria for enjoyment though. Surprisingly deep gameplay, plenty of game modes and unlockables to keep you coming back earn Pool Nation high marks.


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