Pool Nation – Review

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Platform | Release Date
PS3 | June 24, 2013
Developed by CherryPop Games
Published by CherryPop Games

The Pitch:

Pool Nation is the ultimate pool game – with eleven addictive game modes, including the adrenaline pumping Endurance, extensive career modes and seven exciting online modes including the new Speed Pool! With Pool Nation, gameplay is king! Online or offline, the ease of control gives you the ability to pull off shots you wouldn’t dream of in the real world.

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There’s something to be said about games that do one thing, and do them well. Pool Nation, the new billiards “simulator” by Cherry Pop Games strives to create an authentic pool playing experience while infusing a bit of style into the entire affair, since they don’t want you to get bored playing with their balls. (More innuendo will follow. You’ve been forewarned.)

poolnation-2Pool Nation boasts impressive visuals. Everything from the hand-drawn character art, to the customizable cues, tables and ball-sets are all delivered in sharp, vibrant colors that jump off the screen. Features like the “slo-mo” ball potting from trick shots really serve to highlight this when the camera will zoom in to literally show chalk dust puffing off the table felt. It’s about as close to photorealistic as you’re going to get outside of bringing a camera to a smoky, local pool hall.

Pretty graphics are nice and all, but the true test of any pool game is its physics. Luckily Pool Nation nails that as well, with a tight control system and excellent ball play. It’s tough to explain what a fine job Cherry Pop did translating the motions of a billiards table into a game, especially to anyone who doesn’t play the game in real life. I could ramble on about the geometry of collisions resolving at 90 degree angles, but I’ll spare everyone the middle-school math lesson and just say that it feels “right”. Everything from extra english on the cue ball for draw, to kick and swerve shots feel spot on. The most telling moments were when I missed shots and immediately knew why it happened. The fault was on me, not the game.

poolnation-3If you choose to embrace the extensive tutorial mode, you’ll learn the nuances of this physics system, such as cue angle for jump shots, “english” for draw and swerve, and how to perform some crazy trick shots to rack up big points during frames to unlock challenges. Pool is a challenging game, even in simulated form, and this does a great job of setting you up for success. You’re going to need the training, since the CPU opponents aren’t slouches. Somewhere around the 4th match of Career mode the difficulty curve really kicks in, and any mistakes you make are generally punished with a table-running retaliation from your rival. Online opponents were no easier, although I expected nothing less from the internet, especially in such a genre specific game.

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Both online and local versus modes were satisfying through multiple sessions thanks to the surprising number of different modes the game boasts. Besides classic 8-ball and 9-ball variations, there are challenge modes and “Endurance” mode that has you potting as many balls as possible dropping on the table in an increasing rate without letting the total hit twenty four. With nine game modes and the inclusion of online tournaments, there’s a solid amount of variety to the action. Add to this all the unlockable cues, table designs, and ball-sets and there’s a solid amount of replayability. The hypnotic jazz/lounge fusion soundtrack only adds to the games additive appeal, and I found myself losing track of time while trying to get “just one more match in”. Everyone else I showcased the game to found it appealing and the general consensus was “Oh wow, a pool game? This is pretty cool!”

Pool Nation not only fills a gap in the lack of pool video games, it really stands as the only one you need to own. Whether you’re a seasoned table vet or just someone with a passing interest, Cherry Pop has done a fine job in creating both an entertaining video game and arguably the best billiards simulator you can buy right now on a console.

About Ben Daniels

Ben Daniels is Community Manager for Splitkick and co-host of the Rocket Jump podcast. He frequently disseminates misinformation.
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