It seems as though pool and snooker games have been hitting the Speccy market thick and fast over the past few years. You know the kind. View from above, hit the ball in the direction of the marker style. But this new one from Firebird is a whole new ball game. It has a much more realistic 'round-the-table' 3D style, with a totally different kind of control system. And it's great.
The rules of pool should be familiar to most of you, but for those who think that green baize is something to do with Kermit's bum, then here are the basic rules. The primary aim is to pot all your balls (either 'spots' or 'stripes', depending upon who pots a ball first), and the black, first. This may sound straightforward, but as with most ball simulations, tactics and gameplay count for lots more than just charging in at full speed.
With 3D Pool, the aim is to progress through a knockout tournament of three preliminary rounds to finally meet the current UK and European Champion, 'Maltese' Joe Barbara. The computer Players are all formidable opponents, but although they were supposed to have different playing techniques, they all seemed fairly similar to me.
The 3D effect of the game is created by using two colours with different shading patterns. (If you don't like the particular colour combinations, changing the combination is straightforward - just one of the many 'editable' features which add to the games versatility.) The control system is a little difficult to get used to, but once mastered, executing a shot couldn't be simpler. There is a representation of the cue ball in the top centre of the screen, with a tiny black dot indicating where it will be hit. This will influence which direction the cue ball will bounce off the ball it hits. So if you strike it at the bottom, it will 'screw' backwards after being hit. Similarly, if you strike the cue ball slightly on the right hand side, it will ricochet towards the right after contact. Understand? Good. The strength of the hit is displayed in a meter to the right of the cue ball. And though there is no cue as such (which makes the game a little confusing at first) the cue ball is always hit towards the top centre of the screen, where the marking cue ball is.
To estimate the shot you want, you have to move round the table to check it's lined up correctly. This is dead easy, as you can move round the table in both directions. and also move up and down, to view the table from practically any angle. The speed of the picture regeneration as you move round is pretty impressive, and adds greatly to the game's addictiveness. The 3D presentation certainly makes this an excellent game to play, and probably the most accurate simulation of pool we are ever likely to see on the Speccy.
Perhaps because there is so much involved in this simulation, the computer controlled players do take a good while to think about playing even the most straightforward of shots. Waiting while the computer 'hmmmms' about shooting is the most boring aspect of the game. This aside though, the frames don't take long to finish, as once you've grasped the control method, potting the balls is extremely straightforward. But I reckon that once the novelty of the sophisticated presentation has worn off, boredom could set in very fast. Possibly with this in mind, a selection of trick shots and a 'trick shot editor' have been included, which do add to the game, but only as a temporary diversion.
All in all, if you are a fan of pool or snooker, then you won't be disappointed by adding this game to your collection. But I suspect that it's appeal to other games players will be limited.
Impressive simulation, which might lose appeal over time.
This indicates the strength of the shot.
Take the ball to the back of the D and hit it hard in the centre. A 'stripe' will always go into the bottom left corner.
Line up with top to get direction, and... wham... trundle... clack... clack... ching... BINGO!