Pocket Pool Preview
If it's got hot chicks, it's worth talking about. Well, that's our philosophy, anyway. The upcoming pool game, provocatively entitled Pocket Pool, is right around the corner, and we're going to tell you what to expect...you know, besides the smokin' ladies.
First off, let's just clarify once again: the game does not have the Girls Gone Wild license, but then again, we were never sure what that license would've offered in the first place. As it is, you're simply supposed to rack up - get it? - as many points as you can, and your unlockable prizes should appeal to all red-blooded males over the age of 17 (we say 17 to be legally correct; the game is rated "M," after all). If anybody has populated a pool hall in the past, they probably know that it doesn't exactly draw the highest class of people. That may sound insulting to the sport, but we can't help it if it's also true. And besides, that's exactly the kind of appeal the developers are banking on with Pocket Pool, and provided the gameplay isn't too atrocious, they should hit their mark.
And speaking of gameplay, we get plenty of game modes, some of which only the avid pool fan would be familiar with. You've got the standard 8 and 9-ball games, but in addition, you'll also be able to play the less popular 10 and 15-ball, straight pool, Snooker, and Killer (also known as Cutthroat). Furthermore, one of the major benefits of gaming on the PSP is its Wi-Fi capabilities, and this game will take advantage of that. You'll be able to play with a friend via the wireless multiplayer option, but there isn't an option for two-player hot-seat on one system. But that's okay; we kinda get the feeling that this is one of those titles that won't rely too heavily on the multiplayer option, simply because it appears to be the quintessential guilty pleasure.
Most of the time, you'll find yourself competing against a computer player, but sometimes, you'll play in games based entirely on points. Bonus 9 Balls is one example of such a mode, where you acquire points for each ball pocketed within a 20-shot limit. And of course, you can always try over and over again in an effort to pile up the points, because if you want to fill up that Gallery, you had best perform well. In other words, do an admirable job at the table, and you'll be able to indulge in the less-than-admirable ogling of half-naked women in the Gallery all the faster. By the way, we don't believe any of those women will be recognizable in any way, but then again, you never know... In the end, it appears that all forms of gameplay in Pocket Pool will yield points, and the more you get, the better off you'll be.
Those of you who have played pool games before will probably recognize the different camera angles, even though we've heard the controls are a touch iffy. The camera angles are pretty standard; you've got the side angles, over the table shot, and the classic down-the-cue view, all of which you switch between by using the L and R buttons. A highlighted line appears on the table when you line up your shot, showing you where the ball will go, but it only shows the path of the cue ball. In other words, you can see the path of the cue ball, but you can't see how the other balls will respond to your shot. That's probably a good thing, though, because if we could see everything before it happens, any and all challenge goes out the window. That type of thing should only appear briefly in a tutorial. It looks like we'll have to rely on our own skills - and different camera angles - to succeed in our noble endeavor to garner many, many points.
Actually striking the ball may pose a bit of a problem. For some reason, the controls in the game sound a touch cumbersome if the hands-on preview at IGN is any indication. See, there are apparently dual requirements for every shot. There's a typical power meter that you actually set ahead of time, and then you use that power by holding down the Circle button and then pressing right on the D-Pad. Basically, once you have everything set up, you don't have to worry about timing your power; you only have to concern yourself with the cue stick motion. Then again, we assume it will take some time to understand exactly how much power to use in certain situations, and we'll have plenty of questions at the start. How sensitive is that power meter? How far off can we be with that D-Pad movement? And do we simply rely on cue placement on the ball to pull off trick shots? Perhaps the masse won't be a major facet of this particular pool title, but it'd certainly be nice to have.
There are a variety of sticks and balls (take your mind out of the gutter, readers) you can unlock in addition to the luscious images in the Gallery, but that raises one final question: do the different sticks have different strengths and weaknesses? We doubt it, considering there isn't much difference between any given cue stick in real life, but we're not really sure how realistic Pocket Pool is trying to be. But anyway, you can indeed spend your points elsewhere - although we're not sure who's going to choose a different colored ball set over a new Gallery picture - and that should add to the game's depth. Er...in principle, anyway. We have no idea how long it might take to unlock everything in the game, but hopefully, the actual interactive gameplay will be solid enough to make the player want to finish.
Lastly, and with a slight amount of disappointment, we must add the following: there is no full-fledged nudity in the game. The girls are scantily clad, yes, but they're still clad. That rating says "M," not "A," remember, so this isn't softcore porn with a pool game built around it. At least, we don't think it is... Well, you can figure it out for yourself in a couple weeks, if you're so inclined.
4/4/2007 Ben Dutka