Hustle Kings from VooFoo Studios was one of those games that you knew would be good fun on the PlayStation 3, but didn’t expect to be as addictive as it was. Then it released on the Vita and trading shots with your friends on the go was charming, and still addictive. Then Pure Pool comes out on the PlayStation 4 and PC by the same team, so get your rehab booked now.
Pure Pool is a plain and simple pool sim offering up US 8-Ball and 9-Ball game modes in their purest form. You either pick a side (spots or stripes) and clear the table before potting the black 8 ball, or you work sequentially through numbered balls until the 9 ball is the last to go (or pot it legally earlier in the game) to win. I’m hoping that most of you know how pool works well enough that I don’t have to go in to the rules, but if you don’t then the game is very good an pointing out when you’ve made a mistake and telling you what to do next. There are a number of options to plump for from the practice table – I like that touch that you’re always able to have a knock about as the default menu setting – which include single games, career mode, challenges, as well as online play. Career is where I’ve spent most of my time, gradually working through tournaments against steadily harder opponents whilst perfecting my skills. Be in no doubt, there is a fair amount of skill needed here despite there being an aiming line that’s good for about half the table length. Anyone can sink a pot, but getting the cue ball into position afterwards is a prized artform.
Throughout the career there are various different challenges to distract you from the stock games, like Checkpoint – start with a timer to clear the set number of balls and each pot adds time; Perfect Potter – clear the requisite number of balls without missing a pot; or Royal Rumble – clear the table in the time limit, but new balls are added randomly at intervals. Each is designed to enhance and build your techniques whilst gently moving you on. There’s never a point where you play and think the challenge can’t be done, if anything the challenge difficulty doesn’t ramp up quickly enough at times, and that’s not a bad thing. Everything seems designed so that you play at your own pace and to your own skill level: if a challenge is proving too tricky to master then skip it and play something else instead, or practice and keep plugging away. Loading is at an absolute minimum so there’s encouragement to replay with no penalties. The video below showcases a couple of the modes and the transition from oneto another (nothing is edited down).
You’ll have seen in the video a load of text pop up on the right hand side of the screen after finishing one of the matches. These are in-game accolades (not to be confused with achievements or trophies!) and contribute to how quickly you rank up. You’ll gain points normally for taking part in a game, then bonuses are added depending on whether you win, hit any of the recommended criteria (the stars), or whether you manage displays of skill in the game. These accolades are numerous and generous at the same time so it’s pretty difficult to finish a round without hitting at least one of them. Ranking up is steady and gives you access to new cues, though I’ve not see if they make a difference other than a graphical change, and obviously gives online players an idea of your skill level. For playing online I haven’t had the best experience. At launch I was trying with Connor from JoypadAndMe and we just couldn’t get connected at all. Post launch the servers seem steady, but commitments have meant we’ve not been on at the same time, though that’s not a problem. One of the beauties of Pure Pool is the ability to download the DNA of another player and pit yourself against them. It’s playing against an AI, but an AI with the skills and rank of your friends so you don’t always have to be on at the same time. It works well, and I even ended up getting hustled by Connor’s DNA, which is something I’d expect him to do! Or rather, he’ll have a bad round then go on to spectacularly win a round if our gaming history is anything to go by.
Continuing the community and social aspects, there’s the option to setup a league and pit your friends against each other, though in this option it appears you can only do it with live opponents. Not a drawback, but it would have been nice to see a DNA version to compliment it, particularly as you can enter the league screens and start a game with no one else online, meaning sitting and waiting with no action happening until you quit. Not that there isn’t anything to look at… You can tell by the screenshots that this is a gorgeous looking game that runs silky smooth at nearly all times, there’s only a touch of slowdown in a slow motion shot of the cue striking the ball when you’re taking your final shot of the game – otherwise it’s all gravy. Tables can be customised with different colours and logos, so you can personlise the game to a degree. The background ambience is good and clean, and because your focus is always on the game at hand it’s great that there are no distractions. If anything you’re drawn more into the zone because there’s nothing else demanding your attention. This philosophy of keeping it simple flows through into the controls which are left stick aim, right stick cue and strike, with a couple of buttons used for spin control and fine aiming. The touchpad is incorporated so you can track your view around the immediate area and check positioning, and you can also stand up and view the whole table – though there’s no overhead view seen in some other pool sims.
So what’s the overall verdict? I loved Hustle Kings, so Pure Pool was a must buy when I saw it on the PlayStation store. It’s an extremely well put together pool game that offers a great user experience coupled with sublime looks and controls. If you want a quick game, it does it. If you want depth, it’s got you covered there too. I’ve not delved into the online side yet, or the local 2-player, and I don’t feel playing it that I need to at the moment, there’s enough to keep me going before racking up with live competition. You’re constantly reminded that there’s an online mode as the ticker at the top of the screen tells you who’s online – though this more highlights some of the great PSN names people pick than entices you to play. But if online isn’t your thing then, if the VooFoo team repeat their earlier form, we should get some great DLC too which will add even more value to the overall package. In my view, if you want a pool game then this is the only sensible option.
Pure Pool by VooFoo Studios and published by Ripstone is available now on PlayStation 4 and PC for less than £8/$10/€13, and should be coming soon to Xbox One.