21 de julho de 2009

Underground Pool (U)

There are few things more fun to do while drinking than a friendly game of pool. It's one of those games that's actually more fun when the players are too drunk to be any good at it. Unfortunately, the under 21 crowd probably doesn't have a strong appreciation for the game, and Frontline Studio's new game Underground Pool isn't going to help. It's one of those rare titles that manages to take something really fun, and take everything that was enjoyable out of it. And no amount of beer can make it good again.

Underground Pool is barely even a game. To start with, there are only a couple modes of play. The Challenge mode, which at first glance seems like a career mode, is just a string of matches. Despite having the player pick a character and name it, choose which bar to go to, and earn money from winning matches, there still isn't any substance. No story tells players why they feel compelled to compete in every single pool tournament in the city. Plus, the money that is won from the tournaments doesn't actually do anything. Where are the extras? New characters, extra game features? Anything?

The entire game is pretty bare bones. There are only two types of game options: 8-ball and 9-ball. There's no way to change the rules or create custom games, which would have opened the game up a lot more. There are so many ways to play pool, that is just doesn't make sense that a game focusing solely on that would only have two very basic ways to play it.

In a way, it's almost a good thing that there is so little game to be had, since what is there is outright terrible. The game has "real world physics!" listed on the package as one of the main features of the game, yet nothing reacts as it should. Balls bounce around wildly on the table, ricocheting off the edges more times than should be possible with even the fastest breaks. None of the balls seem to react in the way that they should, and as a result some easier shots are missed because of it. The touch screen controls don't help matters much either, since they manage to be less intuitive and responsive than just using the D-pad. The game gets frustrating when those easy shots are missed due to the wonky controls and physics.

To make matters worse, Underground Pool has a useless camera system. While the bottom screen shows a simple overheard view of the pool table, the top screen is a 3D representation of the pool table and surrounding bar. Players can switch camera angles, but most of them are worthless. There is a first person view from the cue ball's perspective, and that works the best, but it's still not very good. A beam of light shows the path of the cue ball, but that line would have been far more helpful on the bottom screen.

Players don't have to worry that their bad camera, physics, and control might make the game hard to play. The opponent AI is so dumb that beating them is rarely a problem. Occasionally they computer will sink five balls in a row, or make some impossible shot, but usually he's too busy missing easy shots, sinking your balls, or accidentally knocking the eight ball into a hole.

To make the package complete, Underground Pool both looks and sounds terrible as well. The 3D bar is grainy and devoid of any color save for the billiard balls. It doesn't even look much like a bar, and is oftentimes totally empty, making the game look like you're playing by yourself in a dark basement. The terrible excuse for jazz music that plays the whole time gets grating very quickly, and the constant clacking of the balls is enough to drive anyone mad. It's not even quite the correct sound effect for billiard balls hitting each other.

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