After debuting on the Xbox 360 back in October of 2012, Pool Nation has finally found its way to the PlayStation Network. With graphical fidelity that literally shines and a physics system with pinpoint precision, Pool Nation is a great title for anyone who’s a fan of the table top sport.
Pool Nation is no doubt a stunning game to look at. The way the ball sets shine and reflect the environment around them so accurately is pleasurable to look at. Not only are the ball sets designed to mimic realism, but the actual pool table itself is also a thing of beauty. The individual stitching is well defined, the rails cast the proper shadow according to the multiple variations of lighting the game provides, and whether it be wood, grain, or metallic, the exterior glosses add the finishing touches. In a game where there is only a minimal amount of things to focus on, this game hits it home. When I was scanning the table to line up my next shot, everything was sharply in perspective. The framerate is smooth and never breaks immersion. Now that I’ve gawked over the pretty visuals, let’s talk about how the game actually plays. Thankfully, the game handles just as smoothly as it looks.
The game offers a completely optional tutorial which I found extremely helpful. It eases you in with basic mechanics such as a standard shot, top spin, and more, then explains the jump shot technique and others like it, and finally, for the hardcore players, there are advanced skills such as super spin and knife edge. Throughout the tutorials not only did I learn how to play Pool Nation, but I actually learned crafts I could use in the real world game. After the tutorial, you have freedom to do whatever you want with your freshly honed skills. You can enter the single-player events like the 8-ball or 9-ball tours. There is a mode called Endurance where there are balls being added to the table at an ever-increasing rate, which is a good bit of heart-pounding fun. There is a versus mode for local co-op and online play, or you can just simply, and quite quickly, jump into a free game at the touch of a button.
In a match, Pool Nation allows you so much freedom and customization for you to get your shot exactly the way you want. You can control the angle at which the ball travels, control the angle of the cue, and tweak and lock in the power of the shot, all to a perfectly fine tune. When entering a tour, I was a bit taken aback by the difficulty of my starting opponent; he nailed every single shot. One thing players should know is that every opponent is good with no build up to greatness. It’s your job to use all things you’ve learned and all tools that have been provided to nail every single shot on your end. There are multiple pros to face off with in this game. They all have a plethora of unique styles that makes them, well, them. One gripe I had about this was the lack of voice acting. I don’t expect a full monologue here, but these beautifully drawn characters have a personality and look that begs to be given a voice. It would’ve been nice to hear Cousin Merl cheer or grunt in the wake of victory or defeat. Outside of seeing these character models before a match, you’re essentially playing against a very skilled stick.
After launching the cue ball off into your desired direction, the magic really happens. First, when contact is made, the sounds of the collisions are impeccable. Each ball accelerates and decelerates at a proper rate. If a spinning ball comes into contact with a stationary one, each will spin at the correct velocity. It’s truly great to see physics this spot on. I never felt like I was being cheated when I missed a shot due to it being a video game where something in the physics just wasn’t right.
For a game about pool, it has a lot to offer and has a lot of depth to it. During each match there are three challenges consisting of winning the match, performing a certain skill, and/or getting a certain score for a shot. Sure, you can win the match and let that be the end of it, but the enjoyment comes from hitting that bank shot earning that extra star. The game offers customization options that will keep the impressive visual from going stale, if that’s possible. If you don’t like the standard ball set, choose one that has clovers on it. If the bland mono-colored table isn’t your style, why not add a decal of one of the artistically rendered characters to it? If all that wasn’t enough to float your boat, there are bonus rounds throughout the tours that have fun objectives that will keep you coming back for more.
If you love the sport, definitely check out Pool Nation. With visuals as pretty as summer vistas, sound and music that harmonizes with the game so well, physics that mimic the real-life games, and game modes providing hours of entertainment, it’s a no-brainer to pick this one up.
Pool Nation was reviewed on the Playstation 3 platform, with a review code provided by the developer. For more information on how Indie Game Insider conducts reviews, check out our review policies.