Dark Energy Digital definitely must be fans of the faster pace of life if Inferno Pool is anything to go by. Not content with the normalities of traditional 8 and 9 ball pool, DED have taken the concept of sinking spherical objects by striking a white cue ball with a five foot stick of wood to a new level of insanity.
The usual 8 and 9 ball games are included with this downloadable, but the Inferno Pool is something different than the normal game that you might play down the pub; this is the most interesting aspect of this title. It's not about the hustling, it's about chucking your balls at your opponent's table and sabotaging their chances of winning.
The environments experienced are a little different than might be anticipated – the tables played on are the sort of thing that could well be encountered in the worst of the biker fighting bars. Stained cloths, gaffer taped felt and dead sounding cushions are the table make-ups, not that it makes any influence on ball trajectories – it's merely for atmospheric show.
Aiming is very fast, and the player never feels cheated by the AI for not being able to make a play on the table due to the controls. Blistering speed pool is easy because of the accuracy of the setup – a quick flick of the right stick works as the cue stroke, and english can easily be applied with the d-pad. Never has a pool game felt as fluid as it does in Inferno; ball after ball can be sunk in quick succession. A tap of the R1 button will rapidly shift the view from a 3D perspective to top-down. As with the rest of the nature of the game, this transition is extremely quick, so as not to interfere with the pace of the game.
Novices can chose to have aim assist on, showing where the target ball might end up when hit – the nice thing here is that even at this level, it doesn't completely hold the player's hand. Aim assist only gives a general indication, longer shots (as in real pool) are harder to judge correctly.
Points are scored for every shot played – the trickier the shot, the higher the reward. Bonuses are gained for bank shots, jump shots, canons and tricky to sink shots, applauded with a skipable replay. A very gruff commentator, who's clearly been chugging on beefy cigars, growls away with his appraisals, complementing the player for particularly courageously pocketed shots.
Given the limitations of the AI, (in that the lower levels clearly miss shots so that the player might not be seven balled, and the higher levels will simply wipe the floor with them for the slightest mistake), playing against the computer can be a bit of a chore; but this isn't where the game makes the most sense. The heart of Inferno Pool works best in multiplayer, whether that be local or online. At least here the player is competing with genuine skill or ineptitude.
Up to four players can compete simultaneously in the very intense Inferno matches, but given that all tables are shown on screen together, unless you have a 60 inch flat-screen or bigger, chances are things are going to look a little on the small side. Squeezing in four tables is a compromise, but it does sort of make sense, otherwise how would you ever know if the opponents were cheating, or see the suffering due to your highly-skilled pots?
Inferno Pool plays sublimely; it's quick, intense, fun and something that keeps the player coming back for another go. The game really isn't what might be expected of a traditional pool game; although the physics are spot on, Inferno is not about simulation. This is the Pool equivalent of Space Invaders Extreme, or Pac-Man Championship Edition. Those able to get over this fact will enjoy Inferno Pool immensely, traditionalists might want to look elsewhere.
Marty has been gaming since the heady years of the ZX-81 and still owns most of the gaming systems purchased since those days, including the Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, SNES, Jaguar, Dreamcast and GameCube. Being a collection junkie (or more accurately, hoarder), he buys more games than he can possibly play, far too many of which are still sealed in their packaging. Marty favours RPGs and Driving games when it comes to genres, and is possibly a little bit too addicted to Disgaea. When not gaming he’s out frightening OAPs on his motorcycle, clad in black leather.