Pure Pool – Review

Title   Pure Pool
Developer  VooFoo Studios
Publisher  Ripstone
Platform  Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (Reviewed)
Genre  Sports simulation
Release Date  November 14, 2014 (Xbox One)

As much as I enjoy playing pool, in the last few years I’ve only managed a handful of games. It’s not even because I’m better than everyone – and, just for the record, I’m really not – but rather because I’m red-green colour-blind. One of the few times this has ever been an issue for me is when I take to the felt, as anyone who has played a couple of breaks with me can attest to. I mean, it’s pretty tough to claim legitimate victory when you’ve used the orange and red balls as the cue ball almost as many times as you’ve used the white one. A few matches into Pure Pool, I found the customisation options and didn’t look back. It might be tough to take a man who plays on a pink table with a rainbow pattern seriously but hey, at least I can see.

Sight is important in this case, because although the scope may be limited, everything in Pure Pool is gorgeous. The felt – no matter the colour – is luscious, the balls gleam, and even the cues – which are all that can be seen of the pool-prodigy avatar – are textured and attractive. When combined into one package, the visuals really pack a punch and every trick in the book is on show to make best use of them. Super slow motion and zoom greet the winning shot; as cue strikes ball there is a puff of chalk that drifts to the table. When only the black is left to pot the screen darkens and heartbeats pump through your hands to give a better sense of the pressure you’re under.

The sound design plays a large hand in this tension, but even when the loud heartbeat isn’t drowning out anything else, it is aurally superb. When balls click together it’s not difficult to believe that it really is some sort of dingy pool hall that’s half full at midday. This impression is further aided by the charmingly self-aware music chosen for the soundtrack. It’s littered with perky piano and jaunty lounge-style tunes that inspire smiles with how appropriate they are.

In a way though, the brilliant job that has been done in creating the perfect atmosphere can overshadow the actual gameplay, which is unremarkably serviceable. It’s tough to imagine how to shake up the simulation of a sport that revolves around hitting balls at other balls with the tip of a long stick, and Pure Pool plays it safe. The left analog stick is in charge of steering the direction of the white ball, while the right stick decides the power that goes into the shot. There is also the option to have a shot guide, which takes the form of a white line for the cue ball and an orange line for the first ball that it hits.

That’s all the control needed to progress past the first few stages of difficulty, but heading into matches against the ‘Pro’ players things like spin come into play. Holding B in conjunction with the left stick moves where the cue hits the ball and, thus, how that ball spins. It’s tough to figure out how that will make the ball behave, even with the guides on, but once it’s cracked it makes shots that feel impossible merely improbable. It’s no guarantee of victory, but when things start getting tough, it certainly helps.

Nothing brings that into sharper focus than the AI, which can be pretty wonky, especially against tougher opponents. I’ve played matches where I haven’t even had the chance to take a single shot, only for the AI to miss four consecutive chances to easily pot balls. It can get pretty mental and, at times, hugely frustrating. I don’t want to feel like the AI let me win, but when it just potted six balls in a row before fluffing the last one three times in a row – just enough for me to catch up – it can be tough to escape that feeling.

Personally this was most prevalent in the Career mode – though calling it that might be generous. There’s no story to speak of; you play through short ‘tournaments’ made up of single matches and capped off with a series against a pro player. Progression through the tournament structure – from amateur tournaments all the way up to master – is decided by stars earned by completing objectives during a match. These can be anything from winning the match without a foul to potting five balls in a row. There are three stars to be earned in every match, with three more to get from the bonus games of variant rules such as Accumulator – where you have to pot every ball in order, earning their number in points – or Killer – where you have to pot a ball every turn or lose one of your three lives.

Although it doesn’t provide much narrative tension, the career mode does provide the framework for a massive amount of content. With all the variant rule styles factored in alongside the fact that there are actually two career paths, depending on your preferred style of pool, you could spend a whole lot of hours working your way through all the single player content. Then there is the online multiplayer which, despite not being perfect, was rock solid when I could find a match. It’s all a recipe for more pool than you could shake a cue at.

There is no denying that Pure Pool isn’t perfect, what with its temperamental AI and focus on visuals, but as an overall experience it’s pretty great. Like almost anything else that falls into the sports genre – no matter how loosely – it’s difficult to recommend if you’re not into the source material, but if you are a fan, it’s a relatively good bet that you’ll enjoy Pure Pool, if only for the amazing vibe that the visuals and audio create in combination. Plus, if it your thing, you’ll never be short of something to do within the game as it is chock-full of content. You should probably steer clear if pool is the sort of game that sends you right to sleep, but if you do enjoy it, well, this will be right up your street.

  • Looks gorgeous
  • Sounds great
  • You can turn the table bright pink
  • Wonky AI
  • Sparse career mode

Aside from the disappointing career mode, Pure Pool is great. It looks good, sounds fantastic, and even plays alright. The AI oddness can even get a free pass once in a while for pure hilarity, but can be frustrating at times. Playing against humans is a good way to combat that little problem and, thankfully, the online mode is solid enough that it’s an enjoyable solution too. If you’re a pool fan, you’re not going to find a better experience and even if you’re not a fan, you never know, you might like it.

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One Comment

  1. Mark Mark says:

    I love this game. It’s my chillout title, quick few sessions and I’m happy.

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