A disappointing digital recreation of billiards/pool, 8-Ball Pocket is a poor entry into the genre. The Finger Guns Review.
Over the years, there have been plenty of cue based video games to hit the market. Recreating the table top sport of pool, billiards or snooker might seem like an easy task but for every decent creation – Snooker 19, Snooker Nation, Pure Pool – there are scores of rubbish ones. 8-Ball Pocket from Super Powerup Games joins this latter group as it launches onto PlayStation 4.
As the name suggests, 8-Ball Pocket is a video game based on Pool. More specifically, it’s based on American Billiards. If you’ve not played that variation of pool before, it’s very similar but it’s designed to be a faster version of the game. The table is bigger, the banks have more bounce in them, the cloth lets the ball travel faster thus further and the pockets are larger. Oh, and the larger, coloured balls are spots/solids and stripes, numbered from 1 to 16.
Let’s discuss the positives first: 8-Ball Pocket has 2 game play modes that take advantage of the American pool style.
The first is Arcade. Here you’re given 8 shots to pot every ball on the table, regardless of what colour or number they are. If you pot a ball with a shot, that shot continues and you get another go to pot a ball. Miss and you lose a shot. It’s not essential to pot the balls in any particular order, but if you want to be competitive in the Arcade mode online leaderboard, you’ll want to try.
That’s because in Arcade mode, you’re awarded points for each ball you pot. If you pot balls in a numerical order – say 1, then 2, then 3. then 4 – you’ll really start to rack up points as more of them are awarded for chaining those pots together. Once you’ve cleared the table, you start again on the next level until you fail.
The other game play mode is a versus mode against another player or an AI opponent. Like in most pool variants, the aim here is to be the first to pot the 8/Black ball. To do that, you’ve got to first pot the 7 coloured balls of your choose, either spots or stripes. The game follows the traditional rules as you’d expect it too.
If you come to 8-Ball Pocket without an understanding of the rules of pool, don’t expect it to teach you. The training mode in this game doesn’t really do any training at all. Rather than offer any instruction in any way, it’s simply a table set up to practice in. It doesn’t explain the rules, the controls or the aims. It’s just a non-competitive table.
8-Ball Pocket really did need to offer more of a helping hand in teaching players to play because it has its own little foibles that players have to contend with. The physics are straightforward enough to understand but they’re far from realistic. You can put spin on the cue ball by changing where you hit it and how hard. It’s not possible to curve the ball though. Instead, this only really effects the movement of the cue ball after it has struck another ball. This doesn’t even apply to banking the cue ball off of a cushion. Then there’s the unpredictability of how far a ball with go when struck. It’s very hard to gauge accurately, as if power is dissipated too quickly and abruptly. The only assistance you’ll get during play is a cue ball shot guide which shows the direction it’ll be hit.
These issues pale in comparison to the camera problems. The view points in this game are never comfortable, to the point that it completely ruins the experience. There’s 2 different views. The first floats around the outside of the table. It’s quite a way off so you can never truly feel like your shot is headed in the right direction. Using the R1 and L1 button to add fine touches to the aim do nothing when you can’t see how it’ll plant against the target ball. The other view is above the table looking down, akin to the one used in Yahoo Pool (that’s a deep cut for you). While this is better than the other view, it’s still not ideal. It all feels too far from the action. It’s incredibly frustrating to play pool when you can never be comfortable with a shot, even the most straightforward ones.
A Shallow Pool
Compared to most other pool games, 8-Ball Pocket is a shallow experience. With only 2 competitive modes alongside the “training”, there’s very little to do here. There’s no online play here either. Cosmetic customisation isn’t an option. You can’t change the colour of the table cloth or the balls or the location. One of the best things about creating a video game version of a cue based game is being able to push the boundaries of what’s possible. That’s an opportunity missed here.
There’s been some effort to make 8-Ball Pocket feel like its being played in a real world location but its nowhere near the effect that Pure Pool had. There’s simply some background environments around the table that make it seem like there’s a bar there. As for visuals, again Pure Pool has this beat by a large margin. The game’s not ugly but it’s not pretty either.
One subjective aspect of 8-Ball Pocket which I personally found very irritating is the music. There’s a long standing history between light jazz music and pool video games but what’s here is… odd. It’s jazz alright but without the passion or catchiness. The tunes in this game feel like a dance remix of jazz songs you’d hear in a noir detective movie or game. This sets a really strange vibe to the game play too, which is already frustrating.
I’ve been fortunate enough to play a lot of cue based games on PS4 over the years. To put it bluntly, 8-Ball Pocket is amongst the worst of them. Pure Pool, Pool Nation and Brusnwick Pro Billiards are all vastly superior products that this. If you’re desperate for a game of virtual pool, maybe look at them. If you can wait, ‘This is Pool’ launches this year and looks like it’ll be worth it…
A dire lack of features, peculiar physics, grating music and camera angles which make accurate play feel impossible, 8-Ball Pocket is amongst the worst pool games on PlayStation consoles. This might be the only native billiards game on PS5 right now but you would do well to swerve this for older, better games.
8-Ball Pocket is available now on PS5 (review platform) and Nintendo Switch.
Developer: Super Powerup Games
Publisher: Super Powerup Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, a copy of the game was purchased. For our full review policy, please go here.
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