By: Jeff Cater
“The poolhall’s a great equalizer. In the poolhall, nobody cares how old you are, how young you are, what color your skin is or how much money you’ve got in your pocket… It’s about how you move.” – Poolhall Junkies
Nothing is a more accurate description of the experience to be had in Pure Pool. Ripstone Games and VooFoo Studios have combined forces to deliver what is likely the best poolhall experience on console to date.
While the controls are familiar to other games in its genre, they have been tightly refined to provide an experience as smooth as the felt on your table. The camera settles in nice and low, and you’re ready to break a set. Aiming your shots comes down to delicate nudging of the left stick, and fine tuning your shot with the X button is crucial to sinking balls properly.
You may also easily apply spin to the ball in order to better set yourself up for your next shot. When you’re ready to strike, just pull back the right stick and either throw it forward or softly push, whichever you opt for is easy to pull off thanks to the spot-on sensitivity of the thumb sticks.
Poolhall video games usually focus on making the table look nice and having reflecting balls for immersion, but Pure Pool sets the bar ridiculously high. Not only do the tables look absolutely realistic, but the balls feature said reflections of both the table and environment, which is probably the best feature visually.
Pure Pool feels high class all the time. The default setting takes place in a fancy bar that is dimly lit and populated with many NPCs — they never offer any interaction, but they fill the scene quite nicely and bring a very lively feel to the game. A nice depth-of-field effect is heavily applied to emulate the focus on the game, so everything in the background is a tad blurry, but it really doesn’t take away from the experience.
Additionally, you can change the pool cue you’re using, what the felt on the table looks like and a few other neat touches, so it’s an experience that you can easily personalize. If you also sink a game-winning shot, the camera hones in on a close-up view of the cue striking the cue-ball, complete with blue chalk dust puffing off of it.
The background music is your typical unobtrusive jazz hall type, so the urge to turn it off doesn’t really pop up. It does somewhat feel like you’re out shopping around, but hey, it works out great. The aforementioned crowd also murmurs and laughs in the distance, and the sound of a rack breaking across the table is just as earsplitting as it should be. All in all, the visuals and audio work tie together so well that it creates a very inviting and comfortable vibe for the game that will chill you out, as a game of pool should.
Immediately upon starting, you’re standing at a pre-racked table ready to go. From there, you can choose to break it up and practice ( or just fool around), but at any time you can start a challenge against the computer for medals and XP, or you can challenge any player who is online.
Like a real poolhall experience, the “matchmaking” is quick and feels like someone just walked up and put $5 on the table. You and your opponent can participate in a few expected play modes such as 8- and 9-ball, but to unlock other modes you’ll have to attain a certain XP level. What it really comes down to, though, is that you are standing at a table ready to play — menus are pulled up only at command, but otherwise it’s just you and the table.
As noted above, the camera sets in nice and low. Having personally played many games of pool in real life, I found the camera placement to be virtually identical to my play style. Pure Pool also has a sort of aim-assist feature that shows the path of the cue and projected path of any ball you may be making initial contact with. This, of course, can be turned off for additional challenge.
Speaking of challenges, in-game challenges are not in short supply. From things like sinking a ball from X distance to potting a ball using a plant-shot, you’re constantly being rewarded and reminded of your in-game feats, which furthers the relaxed and friendly experience.
Pure Pool is a definitive experience on all fronts: it provides a chill, inviting atmosphere and gives the players every reason to stay. If you’re looking for a great way to spend some time and relax, Pure Pool is money well spent any way you look at it.