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Pool Nation for the PC via Steam (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)

November 3, 2013 by  



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If you are a billiards fan and just love playing pool, in real life or via video game, “Pool Nation” is one of the most enjoyable and challenging billiard games I have played in a long while. I’m really enjoying this game! In fact, I’m quite confident in saying it’s the best billiards video game available!  And for under $10 on Steam, it’s definitely recommended!

Images are courtesy of © 2013 CherryPop Games Ltd. All rights reserved.
CherryPop Games and CherryPop Games logo are either trademarks or trademarks of CherryPop Games

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Pool Nation

TYPE OF GAME: Billiard/Sport

PLATFORM: PC

PLATFORM GAME REVIEWED: Steam

DEVELOPER: CherryPop Games

RELEASE DATE:  October 18, 2013

Pool Nation, is the ultimate pool game – with eleven addictive game modes, including the adrenaline pumping Endurance, extensive career modes and seven exciting online modes including the new Speed Pool! Not forgetting the Box of Tricks coming soon to Steam, giving you the ability to imagine, build and share your most outlandish trickshots with the world. Utilizing a variety of objects, including Ramps, Pikes, Loop the Loops and Speed up strips, the Box of Tricks is limited only by your imagination.

With Pool Nation, gameplay is king! Online or offline, the ease of control gives you the ability to pull off shots you wouldn’t dream of in the real world. The balls behave exactly as they should use the table surround to create the most unbelievable trickshots and view them back in super slow mo.

The graphics are as shiny and pixel-perfect as the physics, with beautiful locations, stunning exterior landscapes, eye-catching interiors, the ability to change the time of day, and customize your games with a huge array of balls, cues and table decals creating your ideal pool playing environment. Every detail has been considered and polished, from the super-detailed table baize and deforming cushions, to the explosions of chalk dust from the cue tip.

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From CherryPop Games comes their first title, a billiards video game titled “Pool Nation”.

Having played the PS3 version of the game, it’s time to check out “Pool Nation” on Steam!

Take on a variety of characters in a game of classic 8 and 9-ball games to Killer and the frantic Speed Pool, once you master these games, you can prove you are among the elite and take on the various exclusive tour modes. And with each competition, complete a challenge and you can unlock a ball set, decal, cue and more!

Minimum Requirements:

Minimum:

    • OS: Windows XP, SP3/WINDOWS VISTA SP2/WINDOWS 7
    • Processor: Dual Core, AMD/INTEL 2.6 GHZ
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 256 MB OF VIDEO MEMORY ATI RADEON X1600/NVIDIA GEFORCE 7600/INTEL HD 2000 OR HIGHER
    • DirectX: Version 9.0
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection

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Download for “Pool Nation” on Steam actually took about two hours.  It was much longer than what I was expecting compared to the download on the PS3.   But the file size is about 1.6GB and when fully installed, it takes about 13GB of hard drive space.

Cherry Pop Games posted the following info. on Steam Discussions for the game:

We are looking into packaging this better so the file size will decrease, we know this is a high priority – we’re sorry for any inconvenience caused but this issue will be sorted soon. (Also when it downloads it should compress to 1.6GB so it downloads quickly)

Its something that we can’t update quickly we have to test the build thoroughly to ensure in compressing we haven’t removed something essential – so in short we’re on it and we’ll update as soon as we can 🙂

Upon starting the game, you will be prompted with a screen with which language you want to choose, render device, audio device, anti-aliasing and display mode.  Also, the options to select v-sync and windowed mode.

It’s important to note that by selecting the lowest display mode, the better chance it will work on older computers.

I tested several computers to see how performance is.  The more powerful the graphics card and the computer, the better one can play the game in better resolution.  Tried a four year old computer and it was very laggy in the best resolution but was able to get smoother gameplay via the lowest resolution.  I tested the game using a computer with a built in video card that is about four years old and it wasn’t able to play without a Vertix Shader 3.0.

But in order to get the smoothness of gameplay like its PS3 counterpart, you have to own a better computer with a better graphics card, but those with an older computer by several years can play this game as long as it has a better graphic card and by experimenting with display modes.

 

 

When you begin your game of “Pool Nation”, you are given the following menu items:

  • Single Player – 9-Ball competition, go up against many competitors in game of 9-ball. Hit the balls in the following order with the 8-ball being last. 8-Ball is a competition of who will play solids or striped balls, with the 8-ball being the final ball to hit last. Battle various competitors to win each cup.  Also, coming soon is a DLC known as “Box of Tricks”.
  • Endurance – Exclusive to “Pool Nation”, it’s you against the clock in a game of Pool.
  • Versus – Compete against a friend in various competition modes including golf!
  • Online – Compete against a friend or someone who owns the game online.
  • Free Play – Free Play Mode
  • Leaderboard – Check your current online ranking via Pool Nation Leaderboards.
  • Help & Options – Help and options for “Pool Nation”. Change audio, controls and learn how to play.
  • Download Content – Content that will be available for “Pool Nation”.

I spent most of my time playing on single player 9-ball and 8-ball competition. Take on men and women on the Pool Nation circuit.

Before anyone gets into competition, it is recommended to go through the tutorial. The reason is that each competitor you go up against has three challenges that you want to accomplish. From executing a combo shot to getting a consecutive number of shots, sometimes you will need to execute shots which require you to put spin on a ball or even jump above a ball. So, learning how to execute the shots are important.

Challenges can also include having a 6-ball streak challenge to winning a best out of 3, 3-ball competition.

Achieve all three challenges and you can win that competitor’s decal (that can be used on a table), ball sets, cues and more. Also, by beating certain competitors and unlocking their challenges, you may be able to access a bonus area that will open up a new area.

But while you may get through the first five competitors quite easily, the more you advance, the better the competition. Some competitors where you need to apply strategy as some may knock every ball into the pocket during their turn. So, there are times where you will need to plan out each shot perfectly and no chance for error. Also, the further you get into a match, some opponents require a best of three frame competition. So, who ever can win two frames is the winner of that matchup.

The good news is that if you lose, you don’t lose anything, nor does your rank go backward in a single player game. You can keep trying over and over again.

There is also no waiting for the other player, you can hit the X Button and skip and bypass the computer opponent’s plays and get into the action right away. So, for the impatient players, fortunately this is possible.

And while I have beaten the main characters of the Sky Lounge Cup (the entry cup) in both 9-ball and 8-ball play, I have not achieved the challenges of the more difficult players. It’s not easy and you’ll find yourself challenging yourself for hours in trying to beat those challenges. It’s not easy!

You can also watch slow motion replays and save replays of entire matches.

For online matches and tournaments, you can compete against someone around the world and also partake in speed pool online.

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I opted to play “Pool Nation” with an XBOX 360 controller.  The controls are very good and responsive. Using the left analog stick, you can control where you want to hit. Using the LT and RT buttons, you can make the stick go up higher, especially if you want to make the ball jump. game directional button allows you to add spin, back spin or to make the ball curve and you can lock in how much power you want to add. For beginners, you can have an assist beam which tells you where the ball is going to go after you hit it. So, I usually use this, especially overhead mode, which allows me to play much better in competition.

But the controls are easy to pick up and learn, but I do recommend going through the tutorials and learning the advanced moves.

 

 

The graphics for the game is stylish and the rendering of the balls are shiny and beautiful. While you don’t get to see the competitor during a matchup, you do see their avatar and you can apply their images to a pool table. But it’s important to note that if you are using the assist beam of where the ball is going to be hit, sometimes the colors may conflict with the table. For example, by the second round of competitors, you will play on a blue pool table with hot neon pink background. When you are hitting a blue or purple ball, it’s hard to see that directional beam as the color conflicts with the table.

But for the most part, the graphics for the game look great and probably one of the better looking billiard games I have played so far.

As for audio, the soundtrack is crystal clear, no voice dialogue or moaning or atmospheric sounds. You get the sounds of a stick hitting ball, ball hitting ball as is expected. There is no crowd watching you, no voices but just the sounds of pool playing and electronic music, which you can switch off if needed.

 

 

With the the challenges for each competitor, the bonus areas and the number of challenges and modes available, there is a lot of replay value in “Pool Nation”. You can beat your competition via online multiplayer on Steam, you may find yourself wanting to win all challenges or get the best score via Steam leaderboards.

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As a fan of video game billiard games, “Pool Nation” is one of the best look billiard games I have played, it’s also one of the more challenging billiard games out there!

It’s one thing for me to beat a string of competitors during the first Sky Lounge tournament but playing the second, not only does it take patience but you’re going to need a perfect game. To make things even challenging are winning the challenges and mastering the back spin as many games I played, I lost because I scratched.

But it’s part of the enjoyment of “Pool Nation”, taking on a variety of computer opponents, each with their name and skill set that you know that if you run into them again at another competition, more than likely they are going to be a challenge to beat.

I found myself quite a bit on these challenges and enjoying the competition, but realizing that to win the game and beat your competition, you probably will only get 1-2 messups, most of the time only one. So, players will need to have their best game each time.

I also like the fact that you can win table decals, cues and balls if you beat a bonus round. The bonus around is quite challenging and sometimes I felt I beat the opponent by luck but the bonus games add replay value in trying to access extra items and also acquiring a star to achieve all three challenges per competitor.

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One of the coolest additions I have seen added are the various versus mode and also an upcoming section on single player known as “Box if Tricks” and this is reminiscent to something I can compare with the old Hot Wheels car tracks and trying to make your cars go through some wicked spiral tracks.  It seems that the developers are coming up with creative ways to play outside of the billiards box and have some fun.  So, I look forward to playing “Box of Tricks” when it becomes available.  So, with all these modes and types of gameplay that will included with this game, gamers are getting their money’s worth!

As for graphics, the balls look absolutely wonderful. The game is stylish and kept simple, so you won’t see human players or crowds. It’s just the player, the competitor’s avatar and then playing at a variety of venues. With that being said, some venues are tough, not just for its competitors but for those who need the assist beams/lights that help you know where your ball is going, sometimes a color of a table can prevent you from seeing those directional beams but you eventually learn to make do without it.

Audio is primarily music and special effects. The special effects sound magnificent from the cue hitting the ball, ball hitting other balls to the sound of potting a ball.

And also there are other modes such as endurance, versus, online and free play mode.  While those with older computers may be able to play this game, if you want to experience the smooth graphics and controls, you can either play the PS3, XBOX 360 version or invest in a better computer but you can play on an older computer and still enjoy the game, graphics won’t be as great and you may experience lag.

I do recommend having an XBOX 360 controller or some arcade stick for better controls.

I also give Cherry Pop Games a thumbs up on customer support.  I have monitored the “Pool Nation” Steam discussion boards and they have been very courteous in listening to player suggestions and complaints and keeping people updated on what they want to implement in future updates and more.

Overall, if you are a billiards fan and just love playing pool, in real life or via video game, “Pool Nation” is one of the most enjoyable and challenging billiard games I have played in a long while. I’m really enjoying this game! In fact, I’m quite confident in saying it’s the best billiards video game available!  And for under $10 on Steam, it’s definitely recommended!

PROS:

+ Awesome and challenging pool competitions.

+ Additional replay factor with challenges, bonus rounds and multiple modes.

+ Wonderful graphics for the balls and also slow motion use.

+ Not easy, you are going to have to learn various advance moves to take on the more experienced competitors.

+ Physics are very good on the PC via a newer computer, smooth gameplay, no lag!

+ The ability to select display modes for older computers

+ Affordable at $9.99 and definitely worth the money if you are a billiard fan!

+ Positive customer service on the Steam discussion boards

+ The number of modes in versus and the upcoming “Box of Tricks” adds more gameplay fun for players!

NEGATIVES:

– For those expecting more than a pool table and balls and want to see crowds and CG characters, this is not that type of game.

– Some tables make support lights hard to see during gameplay.

– Older computers may experience considerable lag.






General Disclaimer:

J!-ENT has not received any compensation from the company for this post. J!-ENT has no material connection to the brands, products, or services that are mentioned in this post.

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For product reviews, J!-ENT has purchased the above product for review purposes or may have received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free by the company which in no way affects our reviews, may it be positive or negative. We only recommend products or services we have tested/reviewed and believe will be good for our readers.

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