VooFoo Studios debut PS4 title Pure Pool is nothing but pure elegancy and beauty when it comes to the physics and visuals of the game; the controls aren’t half bad either; but when it comes to competitive gameplay and learning the mechanics of pool then unfortunately you are in for one annoying headache.
Of course this headache all depends on your knowledge of pool; if you are familiar with the rules then it should be simply; if not then it can be confusing -especially if you play pool the same way i do. Ok i know i’m not the greatest Pool, or as I call it Snooker, player but the games rules are ‘entirely’ different to how I play them with friends and since there is a ‘lack-of’ easy to access tutorial for each gameplay mode you’d be forgiven if you make a few mistakes. For instance according to Pure Pool you can place the cue ball anywhere you like on the table; yet when I play it in real life I’m only allowed to play it within the semi-circle at the top of the table. The same can be said for when the White ball gets potted; I’m used to two free shots but in this it’s only the one shot. Maybe it’s because this is US Pool and not the British version, or maybe I was taught wrong; but nonetheless I’m British and this is how I play the game. If this has got you worried then don’t be; as you will find rules of each gameplay mode tucked away in the ‘help’ section of the main menu.
The menu screen is another one of Pure Pool’s interesting features, as while it is all nice and hidden it can be far too complicated to get where you want to without dipping into everything single sub-menu. For example Quick Game, which I assumed was going to be an offline game with AI, is actually an online matchmaker. In order to actually play offline you have to go into the practice or players mode, but even then this isn’t much of a practice as the games AI is quite unforgiving to new players. Fortunately if you do want to learn the controls you can do this via the ‘Tutorial’ opponent in the players section of the game or by learning the controls yourself in the ‘free play’ gameplay mode. Whichever option you choose both gameplay options will allow to you pot the battles without any involvement from an AI opponent.
Despite this It’s not like the controls are difficult, in fact they are very easy, it’s just I wanted to get used to them before being thrown into an online (or offline) match. Either way the controls as are follows; the left analog stick is used to navigate the cue around the ball while the right analog stick is used to shoot, a feat which is achieved by pulling the analog stick back and forth just like you would do in real life on a pool cue. Depending on how fast you do this depends on how hard the ball will be hit, but in most instances the softer the ball is hit the easier it goes in however while it sounds easy in theory it can be quite difficult to achieve. Advanced controls allow players to ‘look over’ the cue ball by using the PS4 touchpad, walk away from the table (by pressing the square button) or more importantly precise aiming by pressing the X button. Like I said the controls are easy; it’s just learning when to effectively use them that can become difficult.
Amusingly even with the controls mastered the game can still throw a few curve balls at you, and this is down to the games rather dark setting and lack of viewing options. For starters the games brightness is ‘very dark’ so much so that it can be insanely difficult to see the balls at the other end of the table (especially when playing the game during the day). The task of potting the balls is made even more difficult when the ‘ball line’, a line which predicts where the ball will go, cannot be seen from the current viewing angle and upon leaving the table (to potentially get a better view) the line disappears. Basically in order to make the shot you have to use your own judgment and skill; this is not necessarily a bad thing but it can become increasingly frustrating as you can’t clearly see where the ball is going. This ‘potential’ flaw isn’t made easier with the AI’s rather unforgiving difficulty; but fortunately when playing in the dark, or changing the colour of the table via your profile, the issue of not seeing the pockets can be sort of rectified.
Another small annoyance i found with the game was during the ‘crucial’ 8-ball; as whenever you attempt to pot the 8-ball the area around the table darkens – i admit it looks cool and sets the tone perfectly but with this ‘even darker’ lightning it makes it increasingly difficult to see the pockets that were already hard to see to begin with. Thats not all, as when you ‘hit’ the 8-ball it cuts to a slow-motion sequence of the cue hitting the ball; while this is yet again cool it can be distracting and off-putting as what you really want to know is if you hit the ball correctly.
Potential lighting issues aside if you are looking for a variety of game modes then Pure Pool has got you covered; as in addition to the two major gameplay types (US 8-Ball and US 9-Ball) players also receive two alternate gameplay modes (Killer Ball & Accumulator) and four unique challenge gameplay modes. Each gameplay mode offers something different to the player; for example Speed Pot challenges you to pot all of the balls as fast as possible while Checkpoint challenges you to pot as many balls within a strict time limit. It’s also worth noting that all of these gameplay modes feature an online leader board, so players can not only see their nearest rival but challenge them to a game of pool if they so choose.
This is one of Pure Pool’s strongest merits; the ability to challenge “anyone” at any given time and if they are not available you can instantly download their Pure Pool DNA profile. The DNA Profile is a virtual incarnation of that player, for example if that player prefers long shots and powerful shots then that’s what the DNA profile will do; thus giving you the idea that you are actually playing that person. In hindsight it is like a “time trial ghost” except in Pure Pool each DNA Match can be different, but in can prepare you for the match against the real person.
There is more to Pure Pool than just facing off against opponents online as with the introduction of a Accolades and Experience Points thus offering a whole new way of playing pool. Accolades are in-game achievements for completeting various tasks, such as potting a ball from the break or performing a plant shot; meanwhile experience is earned to increase your player level – the higher level you are the more experienced AI Players you can play against. For me i found more enjoyment out of the accolades, but i love going after achievements – either way both of these gameplay mechanics are installed to every game mode; so what ever game mode you play these accolades and experience points will be present.
Let’s be clear Pure Pool is NOT a bad game, it’s stunningly detailed and accurately matches the realism you’d expect it to; but it has a variety of tiny little issues – most of which are probably just personal niggles rather than actual issues. Maybe it’s just me being annoyed at the AI for being able to pot 5 balls in a row after I’ve broke the table, or maybe it’s the fact that I can’t actually see the pockets due to the lightning around it being too dark; who knows, but what I do know is that Pure Pool is a great online multiplayer experience with friends but a rather tedious experience when playing solo against the AI. Is Pure Pool worth buying? Yes – as even if you don’t have any friends to play against their is plenty of people online, both in real and digital form, available to play against.
– Simple control layout
– The DNA Profile system
– Variety of Gameplay Modes
– Detailed and Realistic Visuals
– Instant online multiplayer action
– In-Game Accolades alongside PSN Trophy Support
– Slightly Confusing Menu layout
– Dark lightning effects make it difficult to see pockets
– Lengthy waiting periods when playing against AI Opponents
– Constant ‘on-screen’ notifications of whoose online (will be fixed in future update)
Pure Pool is now available to purchase from the Playstation Network Store for the PS4 and is currently priced at £7.99/ €9.99/ US$12.99 / AU$15.95; however if you are a PS Plus member you can receive a 20% discount for a limited time. Pure Pool is also available on Steam.