I was never much of a pool shark, with luck always being a major factor for me ever actually winning a game. Regardless, I can’t help but rack them up whenever I find a table. A suitable simulation is something I found severely lacking in this current generation of gaming. Most billiard games in recent years either feature lousy physics or just plain ugly visuals. Luckily, Pool Nation is the exception, dare I say, the new standard for pool games.
Visually, the game is beautiful. With wonderfully detailed rooms with vibrant lighting and colour schemes reminiscent of what you would see in ‘Mirror’s Edge’. The game excels in having a graphical and aesthetically pleasing look. Featuring various different locales, each with its own unique style, I found myself looking more at the surrounding area than the actual table itself. But that’s not to say the play area is lacklustre. The reflections and lighting blend perfectly to make the overall visual experience easily the best looking pool game I’ve ever played.
Trick shots, deadly precision and finesse are the tools of the game. If you’ve ever played billiards, you know a game can be won or lost by the smallest of errors, and the fantastic physics engine in Pool Nation is true to life. The handling and impact reaction is solid and realistic from top to bottom. Shots play out similar to how a real life billiards game would. The controls are well done and easy to handle. Allowing overhead view and precision touch aiming on the lower difficulty settings and the unique ‘rewind’ feature, which allows you to revert time and fix a fouled-up shot that could easily change the course of the game, makes it enjoyable for even the most hopeless of players like myself.
The career mode is a vast series of tournaments with a difficulty curve so sharp it would likely not be allowed on airlines. I found the first few rounds to be fairly easy and the next few allowing only one or two mistakes, but after getting a quarter of the way into the second tournament, I felt as if I was playing with the Grim Reaper himself in some twisted bet for my mortal soul. Overall the career is quite lengthy with various different rule sets to give a go.
Single play mode hosts a plethora of different game types; everything from the traditional 8-ball to a golf game type. Sadly there is no trick-shot challenge or game mode like we usually see in pool games, which is a bit of a let-down. When mixed with the fantastic physics I can only imagine how fun a trick shot mode could be. An ‘Endurance’ mode is, however, present. This mode requires the player to pocket as many balls as they can, as fast as they can, with each missed shot wasting precious seconds. I found this game type to be a bit overwhelming and honestly just not fun, but I can imagine with enough skill that players could enjoy this hectic mode.
The audio featured in the game is brilliant as well. The music is fitting for the style of game, and the ambient sounds from the city outside only add to the feeling of being in a pool hall. The clack of the billiard balls hitting one another sound authentic and are very much atmospheric with regards to the sport.
The game also features online play, but only after searching for nearly twenty minutes was I able to find another player. This is likely due to a very small active community and not the game itself. The game preformed fine online, with no lag or visible delay. Although I will say I found the absence of the golf mode to be a tad strange. I could see myself playing this more often with friends than the other game types and I can’t for the life of me seem to figure out why it wasn’t included.
Overall, Cherry Pop Games’s first endeavour has left us with a fantastic billiards game featuring stunning visuals, great audio and even better physics. The lengthy, albeit difficult career mode, will give you plenty of play time but perhaps for the wrong reasons. If you’re looking for a realistic, stylish, and fun billiards game, Pool Nation is the crème of the crop.