Ah, billiards, known best as America’s past time. It’s been known that our founding fathers wrote the declaration while also deciding between playing a 8 or 9 ball game of pool. And I’m sure everyone has heard of the time when Abraham Lincoln shopped down a tree with nothing but his pool cue. He then freed the slaves, of course, but that’s debatable. Enter Pool Nation, a recreation of the famous sport that boasts stylized visuals and nice controls which attempt to keep you loading up a rack of balls one game right after another. But can billiards really be that interesting and manage to keep your attention for more than thirty minutes?
One of the first things you pick up on when starting a game of pool is the art style that developers Cherry Pop Games place directly in front of your face. It’s a visual appeal that holds your attention through bright and vibrant colors that fill the environment around you and the pool table itself. The glossy colors reflect off of everything from the ball to the cue you’re smashing into them which provides a fine opening presentation that remains pleasing to the eye from the time you begin your Pool Nation experience to the time you end it. Though it should be no surprise, no frame rate drops occur which only adds to the nice visual splendor on screen.
At the heart of it, Pool Nation is a failure of a game if it doesn’t succeed in one aspect: playing pool, and making it fun. Thankfully, it far from fails as it delivers great physics along with some specific gameplay mechanics for when you’re attempting a shot. These mechanics will suit any player’s fancy, even the player that wants to make every shot a trick shot as not only can you adjust the angle at which you hit the ball (allowing you to pop the ball into the air over some of the balls in front of it), but you can also adjust spin, ricochet balls off of the cushion on the top side of the pool table, and even lock your power to further simplify pulling off a trick shot.
While these are fantastic mechanics that work near flawlessly, they open up one gaping feature that should have been in the game, and that is a trick shot mode. In Pool Nation, your two main game modes are either 8 Ball or 9 Ball. You do get a few unique mini games thrown in there (who can clear the table fastest, sink each ball into a specified pocket, etc.) and they’re nice, but the idea of having a trick shot mode where I could go and take advantage of all the specific controls remained on my mind throughout the game. The only time I really felt as if I was taking full adventures of the mechanics was in the tutorial, where it forces you to do some of the craziest shots imaginable by adjusting angle, spin, and power. Pool Nation needs something to make it more than just a billiards game; trick shot mode could have been it.
Once I attempted to look past the disappointment of no trick shot mode, I found a unique experience that Cherry Pop entitled Endurance. In Endurance you must attempt to knock shots into a pocket while contending with a constant barrage of more and more balls landing on the table. Once you get past a certain number of balls, it’s game over. But you also have a perk that you build up by sinking shots where you can stop time for a few moments while attempting to lower the current ball count on the table. The mode is fun and the visuals in it are just as frantic and crazy as one would expect and only adds to the intensity that is building after every second passes.
At the end of the day, I can summarize everything just said with this: Pool Nation is a billiards game. Granted it is a very good billiards game, you still know from that statement alone whether or not you want to give Pool Nation a chance. It is fun for a while but the lack of any long lasting appeal really begins to sour the experience as time goes on and you start to realize you’re just playing the same game of pool over and over again. Pool Nation is a well-designed and nice looking experience that could have been much more impressive than it was with just a few more additions within the game.
How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!