In 1991 on my brother’s Amiga I played Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker. It set me up for something that would bug me for the rest of my real and virtual life. With every real and virtual game of pool I’ve played I can see the angles perfectly, like an eccentric TV detective with words flying around my head I can see where I need to hit a ball and when each respective bounce will go. Unfortunately me being me I have the only two ways to do a shot on a pool table; move the ball half an inch or smack it as hard as the Hulk taking on a Whack a Mole game. Obviously these speed settings aren’t ideal.
Pool Pure from VooFoo Studios is something on an anomaly, a pool game with scope and vision that has stretched further than just being top down, a free web game, or an iOS game. Rather than being a first experiment by a developer into physics this is a true pool game that should impress most fans of the sport. The game is based around the various American games as opposed to British red and yellow rules. A lot of the game is being sold on its DNA Profiles, despite the creepy name this is a feature that’s appearing in a number of games these days and it’s fascinating. After a few games of Pure Pool a profile is made for you where it assesses and works out your play style, tactics and general attitude. With this your friends can play against a version of you when you’re not online. Despite the worrying ability of the game to read your mind it actually adds something a bit different to a game that could have easily been a bit stale in its nature.
Unfortunately this game is not built for track pads and lap top keyboards, for the best results use a gamepad. My game wouldn’t recognise when I was using the track pad and the keys at the same time, this is kind of essential if you’re looking to put spin on a ball. Thankfully with a regular mouse or a gamepad all of the little abilities you can use to perfect your shot can be harnessed to their full potential.
The screenshots that litter this review should make it clear what one of Pure Pool’s biggest selling points is, hot damn this game is beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, your computer wont be grateful, but if you’re able to then you need to have every setting cranked up to full and just love the shininess of it all. When going to pot the black you will get a slow-mo bullet time effect as the cue hits the ball sending blue chalk everywhere, sure this is all pre-done animation etc, but that doesn’t stop it being great to see, again; if your computer can handle it.
This game isn’t insanely labour intensive on your machine but to get the full effect you could do without the slight frame rate issues a smaller machine might suffer from. What I find odd about this however is that the game screams “casual business man in a hotel or on a commute”, and not “COD player needing a break”. Obviously there is some stereotyping there as I can fully admit I loved the game and I don’t wear a suit to work. My point is that it’s hard for a game that ostensibly is a table and some balls to destroy a processor.
The pool table you play on in the game is located in some trendy bar, one so trendy I wouldn’t have got in in real life. In the back ground faceless ethereal ghosts wander around trying to find their partner for the afterlife, or they’re just sprites in the darker background. Either way the entire game is sound tracked with lounge jazz, a type of music I should hate by all rights as with any objective view it’s awful, however in a setting like this it’s perfect. The game gives the tracks cheesy names like you’re playing Outrun on the Mega-Drive. The sound track is there, like everything else in the game, to aide you and to support you in not being distracted from the main point, getting the ball in the pocket.
I often talk in my reviews about fun, something we often forget about with games, something we seemed to have lost in our haste for graphics and hard hitting stories. Pure Pool brings fun back, it may not be the laugh out loud or action packed game you may be used to, but on those late Friday nights or Sunday mornings when you don’t want anything too heavy, you want to start winding down, Pure Pool is the ultimate in chill out games. Much like Proteus, Flower and, for me, Mirrors Edge; Pure Pool is a game that will take away hours of your life without you even realising.
To put it simply, if you enjoy pool at take it even remotely seriously when you play in a bar then you should play this game. Sure it’s not a one to one simulation, but it captures enough of the skill required and strategy of pool to give more hardcore fans something to come in for. The casual market may struggle with the sheer power needed to get the great graphics and the nigh-on requirement of using a game pad. Overally Pure Pool is a clear sign that when down right this sports genre is something that can be more than just a flash game and have some quality and thought behind it.