British developer Big Head Games racked up International Snooker on various other formats prior to this high-definition PlayStation Vita port, and generally to favourable reviews. So, given the handheld's repertoire of quality controls and processing power, does this enhanced version of the title build a big break, or sink the white on its first shot?
Let's chalk off with the controls: the left analogue stick dictates direction, while the right analogue stick defines power. Elsewhere, the left trigger toggles between spin and swerve, while the right trigger switches perspective. It's a fairly simple scheme, which ensures a smooth experience. You can play with line guides to assist with your angles, or turn those off if you're looking for a more realistic challenge.
In addition to a number of play modes – including Career, Quick Game, and Practice – you can also personalise the experience, switching between cue types, chalk colour, and more. These are all purchased using in-game credits, and while they don't really affect the gameplay as much as we would have liked, they at least add some customisation to the action.
Career mode consists of taking your pro through a season of 15 calendar tournaments, racking up player points as you endeavour to become the world number one. The computer-controlled opponents are increasingly competent, but they lack personality. The game doesn't feature a player name license, and there aren't even any physical avatars to speak of, with only on-screen prompts and names differentiating adversaries.
Fortunately, the inclusion of referee Michaela Tabb does add some authenticity. You can save frame replays and post scores to Facebook, but the ball physics are not quite up to par. While the gameplay is generally solid – with realistic sound effects added for good measure – the balls feel a little heavy. This issue is not particularly noticeable on the pool tables – which are included as an extra option – but is particularly pronounced on the larger snooker tables, and it makes planning your shots more challenging than it perhaps should be. Additionally, it doesn't really feel like the balls are connected to the surface of the cloth – a problem which is evident in shot replays.
Still, it plays a fine frame in short bursts, and it's the presentation shortcomings that really let the game down. Without any licenses and player introductions, the title lacks the atmosphere that's so fundamental to the sport. There's a multiplayer mode (complete with online chat) to keep you coming back, but in reality, once you've beaten the single player campaign, you won't find much to keep you occupied here.
International Snooker sinks several balls in succession, but misses out on a century break. Presentation problems and physics hiccups let the simulation down, but it's still worth a shot if you're a Vita owner in search of a quick frame.