Just Like Real Pool Except With Shinier Balls...
I find pool to be a calm game with an occasional adrenaline rush. You have to take your time, keep your cool, and hope that you don't scratch on the 8 ball. Most pool games stick to the basics and turn out lackluster; they don't capture the atmosphere. Pool Nation corrects these flaws and sets a new standard for first time developers.
Pool Nation is the first game by Manchester based studio CherryPop Games and it is obvious they are looking to make good first impressions. A lot of time has clearly been spent developing and polishing the game. The menu is clear and crisp and entering a game is seamless. The mix of drum 'n' bass and piano music in the background provides a nice ambiance.
"Its calm simplicity is a nice change in an ever frantic world."
There are four locations to play in which are all very Mirror's Edge-esque. In the day, bright white is offset by yellow and blue while a backdrop of skyscrapers pierce the cloudy sky. At night, the focus is on cold blue paired with warm colors like orange and red. Each is pleasing to the eye and makes for quite the visual experience. I was not expecting much detail to be displayed
beyond the table so I am pleasantly surprised.
The graphics are really quite amazing. The lighting is near realistic and each ball looks to have had seven separate coats of polish applied. Using the handy replay camera, with which you can re-watch shots at 1/100th speed, you can zoom in and inspect every shiny detail. You can see every thread of the baize (table felt), watch the rail cushions deform, and even see the chalk dust from a cue.
The controls are simple enough that players can pull off the most complex shots without much trouble. The analog sticks are primarily what is needed to win a frame. It's hard to get more simple than that. A small pop-up menu displays all the controls for when seemingly impossible shots need to be attempted. The simplicity is both ridiculous and amazing.
Having both an overhead and a first person camera view provides convenience when performing different shots while giving the game a realistic atmosphere. Switching between the two are essential for the timed Endurance game mode. There are six other game modes found in the single-player 8 and 9-ball tournaments as bonus rounds that provide a nice change of pace and are great for those who want quick games with a competitive edge.
The only discernible drawback I've found is that the AI tends to be overly difficult in the later stages. One wrong move and your opponent clears the table. With that said, it also makes defeating them all the more satisfying. Additionally, I have a small fear that the online community will become scarce within a few weeks. Pool games have a limited market to cater to, which means less people are likely to play. What a shame it would be if that happens. So much work has been put into making Pool Nation the best game it could possibly be. I suspect CherryPop bled, sweat, and cried extensively while perfecting their creation. Such is a practice that all developers should spend more time doing.
By combining realistic physics and incredible detail, CherryPop Games have designed a surefire hit as a first project. Pool Nation makes every other pool game obsolete. Both veterans of pool and amateurs such as myself will be drawn in and immersed by the authentic, in-depth atmosphere of game. Its calm simplicity is a nice change in an ever frantic world. I can't wait to see what CherryPop Games has up their sleeve next.