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Review

Pure Pool Review

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Are you ready to play with some of the shiniest balls you’ve ever seen?

VooFoo Studios is fast making a name for itself as a producer of incredibly photo realistic console versions of games like backgammon and chess (for those of you who bought games consoles to play social games in a way that doesn’t actually require you to socialise). With Pure Pool, that pedigree continues.

The first thing that really strikes you is the sheer quality of the graphics. The PS4 has really been put to work – everything looks so real it’s like you could reach across the table and touch the felt, or see your own reflection in the polished cue ball. It’s much like what I imagine staring into the back of Bruce Willis’ head would be like. Although admittedly much different from any of my personal real life pool experiences (There’s no tatty tables, broken cues, scuffed balls or overpowering odor of stale beer) it all looks incredibly authentic down to the tiniest detail.

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There’s a very thorough range of game types available, and they encompass all the different ways you’d want to play neatly. Chief among them is the career mode, which pits you against a score of computer controlled opponents in an Angry Birds style quest to gain three stars from each match. The stars act as incentives to adapt and pick up new tricks along the way whilst earning yourself a tidy extra bit of experience, increasing your notoriety in the online tournament mode. It’s a solid challenge, and whilst it might take you a little while to get into the swing of things, you’ll find both the physics and controls to be as authentic as possible.

Whack a ball too hard and it’ll thump across the table, sailing off the edge and landing with a satisfying thud (you even get a trophy). It’s the little touches that cement Pure Pool’s authenticity, and in terms of controls and physics, there’s nothing to complain about. Everything just gels together very naturally, and once you’ve learnt the ropes, the game continues to push you to adapt and improve. There’s no solid route to victory here, and you aren’t spoon-fed or handheld. It’s pretty much just “Here’s the game. Here’s the rules. Go nuts”.

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Another strong point of the game is the stripped back, minimal interface – a simple and efficient menu overlays the table when it’s needed, and vanishes when it’s not. There’s no noisy interruptions, no visual clutter. The most intrusive the HUD gets during a game is the trajectory arrows that appear to show you where a ball’s going to ping off when you hit it (A feature I assume you’d be able to turn off should you want to). If you’re new to pool, don’t worry – the tutorial and freeplay modes are more than enough to get you started.

Rather than the dingy pubs with which I associate games of pool, this just sets you in an incredibly civilised upper-class bar with a wonderful sense of openness – other patrons sit just out of view, just out of focus, glasses occasionally chinking over an understated piano soundtrack. Pure Pool gets an entire point out of five just for exceptional ambience. It has a relaxing vibe to it that kept me coming back for more even when I’d poked enough balls for a lifetime.

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So how does the online play compare to the career mode? Well, almost exactly the same. The matchmaking almost always lands you with an opponent you’re evenly matched with. The time between shots is hugely extended, though, which really throws the pace off from the usual rhythm you fall into in career play. The game has a soothing, thoughtful movement to it, the kind of game you play with a hot drink in your pajamas, when you don’t necessarily want to engage with complicated plots or extensive controls but you still want to engage your brains a bit, and it loses a lot of that with the occasionally unreliable online play and stunted pace. That’s not to say it’s not good – it’s every bit as technically competent as the offline play.

Another bugbear, one much less understandable, is the lack of local play. It seems like a natural fit, and as such, becomes a gaping absence. It’s not a major complaint, but perhaps something to address in a patch or future iterations of the game. Keep doing what you’re doing, VooFoo – this approach to recreating traditional games is a surefire winner.

There’s a lot of joy to be had with Pure Pool. The gorgeous graphics, smooth, swanky soundtrack, and stripped back approach do wonders. It trades in glitzy avatars and over-the-top effects for a solid, authentic experience that does exactly what it says on the tin. Pool. No fuss. Just pure fun.

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Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.

Rating:
4/5
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