There’s always been something enjoyable about pool and snooker games. Going way back to Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker in the early 90s I’ve enjoyed a few virtual frames with my cue in hand and balls on the table, especially if there was someone else without a robotic brain to play against. Over 20 years later those games which were, at the time, the height of ball-based realism are starting to look a bit rusty as you’d expect, especially when placed next to the shiny-balled auto of VooFoo’s latest game: Pure Pool.
As the first next-gen pool game and following on from their previous work of art Hustle Kings, the developers had a very open space to fill. They could have copied Hustle Kings with its system of in-game currency allowing you to buy special chalk, new cues and fancy sets of balls, but instead have given us something totally new. This might upset fans of the previous title who might miss the option to play proper snooker, or want to be able to take shots using a handy but far from realistic top-down camera view. In many respects Pure Pool has less going for it than its older brother, but what’s included is extremely well executed and with a recent update has become something very enjoyable to play.
There are both single and multiplayer elements in Pure Pool, and although playing against others will obviously provide you with more enjoyable games, the career mode is a welcome chance to advance and perfect your skills without someone laughing at you when you ping the cue ball off the table into someone’s pint. By taking you through a series of increasingly difficult matches which cover the standard 8-ball, 9-ball and Killer game types you not only get to see each way of playing, but also get a series of challenges to test your skills. Whether you’re trying to pot a certain number of balls without missing or clearing the table in a set time, it’s a good diversion to make you think about something slightly different to your average frame.
But the fun comes when playing with others, and there are options to play individual frames or set up tournaments with other gamers. Initial problems of poor connectivity with the Pure Pool servers and messages appearing every time a user logs in (whether they’re your friend or not) have been sorted in the latest update, so games are fluid, easy to find and fun to play. An easy rematch option also lets you run a series of frames against the same opponent, with the game keeping track of the score between the two of you. I personally found the most enjoyment playing Killer, with the desperate holding on with a single ball remaining bringing some great excitement to frames played against real opponents.
But what of the playing itself, and the overall experience received from playing Pure Pool? This is where the game shines, and between the gorgeous visuals and atmospheric surroundings you know you’re in for a treat before even smacking your first ball across the table. The locations all look great, with plenty of things going on in the background without being enough to put you off, mainly due to the nicely done depth-of-field blurred effect to keep you focussed on the table. And it’s the table where everything shines the most, quite literally. Balls have been polished to a fantastic degree, reflecting the light and surroundings perfectly to provide an air of realism not often found in a game, even on the newer consoles. The table itself is a thing of beauty too, and with the camera spending so much time very close to the baize it’s nice that it looks so incredibly life-like, despite you having the option to customise it to suit your own tastes. The in-game music is perfect too, giving that soft jazz feel that has become customary to VooFoo’s games but works very well in the context of the games. It’s a shame that the PS4’s limitations on music storage prevents you from picking your own tunes, but the included music is most definitely suitable for a relaxing game of pool.
So having seen all this, had your “oooh, pretty” moment and nodded along with the jazz beats for a few moments you get to actually grab your cue and take to the table. Unlike Hustle Kings there’s no overhead view, so it’s just your view through your own eyes. You can get up and walk around the table to check out different angles, but otherwise you’re right behind the cue ball until you take your shot. Some don’t like this, and I read a lot of people complaining about the lack of overhead camera, but having played it a lot and spent time getting to know the (very real) physics I don’t think an overhead camera would improve the game. Pure Pool is about realism, and in that respect it totally works. The method of taking shots is great too, with no power meter or swinging dials to help you take your shot. You aim with the left stick, set up your spin if you want any and take the shot by pulling back the right stick and pushing forward at your required power. It takes a few shots to get used to, but you’ll soon be knocking balls about with the finesse and control that you’d find at a real pool table. It’s a joy to play.
And did I mention it was just under £8? For a game that can keep you going for a long time (and with a friendly face to play against, a VERY long time) that’s a steal. There’s no option to play proper snooker, although as that was added via an update to Hustle Kings there’s nothing to say it’ll never happen, but there’s very little else to complain about, especially now the initial connectivity issues have been squashed. VooFoo have stripped away the unnecessary bulk and delivered a game which definitely belongs in your collection, especially if you’ve ever enjoyed a snooker or pool game before. On your own you might not get the full enjoyment, but take it online or get someone on the sofa next to you and you’ll have a great time. You can even play against your friends’ DNA, meaning you can play against a virtual version of them while they’re offline. If that’s not worth the money, I don’t know what is…
Reviewed on PS4