Having made its debut on Xbox 360 back in October of last year, CherryPop Games’ Pool Nation received a significant amount of critical acclaim. Not least from your very own Electronic Theatre, claiming in an in-depth review that Pool Nation was packed with content and original gameplay modes that made it stand out from the crowd. Here on PlayStation 3 CherryPop Games are hoping to repeat that success, but haven’t ignored the fact that several months have passed since the original release, beefing up Pool Nation considerably for its PlayStation 3 release.
The core experience offered by Pool Nation is a consistent and reliable virtual pool; a rendition of the game that is arguably as close to the real thing as videogames have ever come. Balls visibly react with the baize and millimetre precision is required to make the most out of angles and speed. This is pool for those who enjoy the real world game, either as a hobby or simply as an occasional pastime when out with friends. And Pool Nation does cater for both, with an extensive single-player component and enjoyable collection of multiplayer modes.
The single-player experience is made up of a tutorial and two tours, with the later each containing a series of cups. In turn, these cups contain and increasing number of matches which players must win to continue as well as optional bonus matches which mostly reward the player with cosmetic unlockable items. Furthermore, each match has a three star rating to be achieved, adding a significant amount of longevity to the single-player experience for completionists.
A further gameplay mode is available to soloists in the form of Endurance. Here, players are given a great deal of customisation options to set the challenge as they so wish, but the ultimate goal is always the same: to beat the clock. As time continues new balls are added to the table to a maximum of twenty four, and the player must keep potting balls to prevent from reaching that limit for as long as they can. The pressure is constantly building, but thanks to Pool Nation’s relaxed and informative aiming system you never feel like it’s hopeless: there’s always a ball you’re able to pot if you can be quick enough.
Complimenting the single-player gameplay is a wide variety of multiplayer modes, both on- and offline. Individual matches are customisable to the nth degree for local play, while online provides the typical Player and Ranked matches in addition to fully fledged tournaments. In many modern titles it’s automatically assumed that the multiplayer gameplay outranks the single-player modes; that besting human competition is always going to be more satisfying than that of artificial opponents. However, in Pool Nation that’s not necessarily that case, for while the multiplayer gameplay is delivered in a reliable and enjoyable fashion, the single-player is so strong that it really comes down to being a case of personal preference.
The visual quality of Pool Nation is equally as impressive as its gameplay, with a unique visual style that adds a calming atmosphere to the experience. All too often videogame attempt to make pool into something it’s not, adding gangster characters or ‘edgy’ style. Pool Nation is different, instead realising that subtlety can speak volumes. The soundtrack may be a bit ‘gamey’ but as a whole the presentation is pitched perfectly for that calm late Thursday night videogame session with a couple of friends.
Having already been well received on Xbox 360 it was easy to predict that the same would be said of Pool Nation on PlayStation 3. However, it truly is a combination of elegant design and precise execution that has made Pool Nation into more than the sum of its parts. It’s easy to suggest that Pool Nation is the finest example of virtual pool on the PlayStation Network, but to do CherryPop Games’ work justice it must be said that they have delivered what is in fact one of the best pool videogames ever to grace a console.