It’s undeniable that VooFoo Studios is swiftly making a name for itself by producing incredibly photo realistic digital renditions of classic games. We’ve already covered the British-based outfit’s Backgammon and Chess endeavours, and now we’re onto Pure Pool, an adaptation of the quintessential pub pastime that’s clambered its way out of your dingy local and into an upper-class social club.
The game breaks itself up into several segments, the main one being career mode. Here you’ll face off against computer opponents in tournaments, with each game offering a chance to collect three stars along the way in a kind of Angry Birds fashion. One star is usually gleaned from besting your competitor, with the others locked behind accolades such as potting only in the corner pockets or sinking a few spheres off the break. These added challenges act as incentives to push your pool skills in different directions, and reward adaptive players with additional XP, which in turn helps to build your online notoriety. In between tournament matches there are also challenge games that offer a further three stars, and normally come in the form of speed runs or potting precision tests.
The other modes are practice and tutorial, which are free play options that speak for themselves, and, of course, online play. Here, connecting with another player is a breeze, and you’ll nearly always be evenly matched. Unfortunately, the time between shots is exponentially longer than you’ll be used to when playing offline, so the pace feels incredibly off. Aside from that, though, it plays almost identically to the main game – just with the added satisfaction of knowing that you’re besting another human.
The different modes can be played at various levels of difficulty, with the ‘Amateur’ tier offering guidelines and tips, and the higher ranks of ‘Pro’ and ‘Master’ leaving everything down to your own keen eye for pot opportunities. The difficulties also adapt the skills of the computer players, and considering that we were getting thrashed at the lowest level, it’s probably worth sticking at the bottom difficulty setting – at least to begin with.
Where previous attempts at mimicking the cue-based sport have often been bedazzled with eccentric avatars, trick shots, and needless power indicators, this game takes a more refined and stripped back approach to the user interface. This starts with the excellent cue control system, that’s gloriously simple and incredibly effective. Indeed, you’ll place the ball and choose your angle using the left stick, and hit it with the right stick – the speed of your flick determining your shot’s power.
While this is a neat feature, it does mean that the title requires a little more practice than similar releases. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, and only goes to improve the satisfaction of hammering the black into the corner pocket before your opponent. Landing that final shot prompts a slow motion cinematic, which closes the game in serious style.
And this atmospheric flair is replicated right throughout the release’s presentation. Unlike many of the pool games that we’ve played in real life, this takes place in what seems like an upmarket bar filled with civilized individuals enjoying drinks together. They remain shrouded in a light blur that keeps your focus locked to the table, but doesn’t hide the fact that you’re playing in a public space. The ambience of the arena is subsequently on point; the nearby conversations carry gently over to your table while the chinks of glasses echo throughout the room, all of which is topped off with a subtle background music.
And, as expected from VooFoo, the visuals only further the immersion. The grunt force of the PlayStation 4 has really been put to work with the photo realism that’s present here; the reflection of the room is accurately represented in every ball, while the table’s fabric looks detailed enough to touch. This is also fully customisable – even if you happen to fancy a pink baize splattered with stars. It’s not just the graphics that are lifelike either, as the physics are top-notch, too, with balls clattering off the edge of the table as you thump them with a particularly strong strike.
VooFoo can chalk this down as another successful adaptation, as Pure Pool proves to be an enjoyable and astoundingly well presented interpretation of arguably the greatest pub pastime. The tutorials and help sections should get newcomers up to speed, while the ‘Pro’ difficulty will definitely test veterans. There are a few difficulty issues which prevent it from hitting a perfect break, but the stripped back interface and immersive atmosphere mean that it certainly won’t be snookering you tonight.