Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pure Pool (PS4)

Pool is definitely an enjoyable game to play. It's one of the few recreational games that incorporates mathematics, strategy, and only a slight amount of luck. You'll find that some people play pool for the fun of it while others play for the more competitive aspect. Either way you choose to play you will find that Pool requires some serious skill, and close attention to detail. In the case of VooFoo, and Ripstone's "Pure Pool" virtual Pool table experience you'll find plenty of next-gen worthy content that not only incorporates the time honored traditions of the game, but that also presents it in a way that's about as realistic as it is in real life. Everything from the pool table's graphic details to the surrounding club/bar backdrop makes it look as if you are in the virtually crafted environment playing pool yourself. Along with the realistic pool hall setup comes various modes of play, customization options, and an XP ranking system that will properly pair you up with others in your skill class. Online, and offline gameplay are both options afforded to those willing to pay for the game.

Pure Pool begins with a virtual stroll into a swanky dimly lit nightclub filled with blurred out bar patrons, and various pool tables which are set in place for playing on. You'll notice that VooFoo, Ripstone, and another contributing developer's company signs are hung up on the entryway walls that lead into the establishment. After you get past the brief intro portion of the game which passes by like a virtual tour you will find yourself standing before a customizable pool table with pool balls racked, and ready to be broken. By pressing the "Options" button you'll be able to escape this 'Free Mode' style gameplay (supposing you want to), and be able to tweak your settings as you like. Initially you'll only be able to change the table's color, and the on-table emblem. The more you play though the more that different options will be afforded to you. Things like different ranked pool cues will become available as you rank up, and earn accolades.

Aside from the customization options which are located in the "My Profile" portion of the 'Options' menu you'll find three basic modes of play listed amongst all the other main menu options. These modes of play include an offline "Career" mode, a "Challenge" mode, and a 'My Games" mode. The "Career" mode basically consists of branching ranked (Amateur, Pro, Master) tournaments filled with one-on-one competitions in both the "8-Ball" and "9-Ball" game styles as well as thrown in challenges (Speed Pot, Checkpoints, Perfect Potter, Killer) that will further test your mettle as a skilled pool hustler. "Challenge" mode, which is more or less a way to earn a global ranking consists of the previously mentioned challenge based game types including 'Speed Pot', 'Checkpoints', 'Perfect Potter', and "Royal Rumble. In "Challenge" mode you can earn your place on the game's global leaderboards in each of the gameplay types by making a good time, or score your best score during your playthrough.

Speed Pot, which is the first challenge mode game type on the list will have you trying to pot all nine of the similar colored balls into the various pockets within a given time limit. You'll need to break the racked balls, and then pot all of them within a given time limit. Checkpoints, which is not that different from 'Speed Pot' will have you trying to pot as many balls as you can in a set time limit. There's more balls involved in this game type than what is included in 'Speed Pot'. Perfect Potter is the third "Challenge" mode you'll see listed, and is a game type that will have you trying to pot all of the balls without missing a pocket. Lastly, 'Royal Rumble" will have you trying to get all nine of the balls into the various pool table pockets as a second timer counts down, and adds another ball onto the table upon counting down to zero. Potting balls quickly, and efficiently is your only hope at making a good time in this particular mode as the more you miss the more likely you are to see additional balls appear on the table.

In the way of main game types you'll find that "8-Ball", and "9-Ball" make their debut as the go to game types along with "Killer". In "8-Ball" both striped, and solid balls will be racked up together along with the 8 Ball. Whoever gets to break first will have the opportunity to continue their playthrough assuming the broken balls hit all four sides of the table. If one side is not hit during the initial breaking it will be the second player's turn to try, and pot either a solid, or striped ball. The first player to pot a ball will have to pot the same ball type that they potted initially. This leaves the second player with the opposite ball type. If the first person to pot a ball pots a solid then they can only score pots by landing solid colored balls into each of the table's six pockets. This will leave the second player to score with striped balls in a similar manner. As long as a player is scoring they can continue potting balls. If the miss a pocket, pot the wrong type of ball, or pot the cue ball they will score a foul, and lose their turn. In the end the player to pot the 8-Ball after potting all of their striped, or solid balls will win the match.

As you can probably imagine "9-Ball" is a good bit different than the traditional '8-Ball' game type. In '9-Ball' players will take turns potting balls in order of their number. The first player, after breaking the racked balls, will have to try, and land the "1" ball into one of the six table pockets. If they miss, or foul the second player gets a shot at potting the same ball. Assuming the player playing pots a ball they can then attempt to pot the next ball in numerical order. The player to pot the final "9" ball wins the match. Like "8-Ball" a "9-Ball" player can continue to play as long as they don't miss or foul the cue ball. Keep in mind that stripes, and solids are all fair game in this particular game type.

The final main game type that is included in "Pure Pool" is one that was foreign to me, but that was easy to learn thanks to the "Help" section in the "Options" menu which disclosed all of the rules. Killer, as it were is basically a game type that is slightly similar to "9-Ball". In "Killer" players will take turns striking one ball with the cue ball at a time while trying to land it on one of the six pockets. Unlike "8-Ball", and '9-Ball' though you cannot continue playing after you pot (pocket) a ball. In essence it's a turn based game type that gives each player 3 lives to start with, and eliminates said lives as the player in question misses a pot, or makes a foul. The first person to lose all of their lives loses. It's as simple as that. As far as lives go you, or your opponent can earn an extra life by potting multiple balls in one shot, or by potting the '8' ball in one of the six pockets. This in turn can extend gameplay into additional rounds with newly racked balls.  Once you lose all of your lives though you lose the match, and give the win to the opposing player. The same thing happens to the opponent if they should lose their lives before you.

When it comes to all of the main game types you'll find that VooFoo Studios has included both online, and offline matchmaking options. In the way of offline gameplay you can challenge a ranked AI opponent via the "My Games" "Options" menu in a game type of your choosing. As you encounter people online, and download certain DLC packs like the VooFoo Gamer DNA DLC you'll be able to play against that person offline in a manner that would be consistent with playing with the actual person in the online environment. The "Gamer DNA" feature that VooFoo Studios has implemented actually keeps track of your playing style down to the finest detail. It notes whether you add spin to the ball, shoot from a higher position, or how often you do such things. Your "Gamer DNA" as well as other gamers' "Gamer DNA can be downloaded, and used over, and over again for repeat match ups.

In the way of online options you can choose to go with a "Quick Match", or choose an online player to challenge from the "My Games" "Options" menu. Like the offline options you'll be able to choose your game type, and online opponent via the "Online Players" list in the "My Games" menu. As you play in either the offline, or online environments your skills will be kept in check by a stats, XP, and ranking system. Stats include things like fouls scored, balls potted, games won, games loss, and other similar things that tie in with your success or lack thereof. The XP ranking system basically takes in account all the games you play, and the accolades you earn during each match playthrough. Accolades, are in essence trophies pertaining to on-table feats of prowess that you have displayed as you play. Potting multiple balls during a break, scoring with a bankshot, or potting multiple balls in a row are but a few of the many different accolades you can earn. As far as the ranking system goes it is a three tier system that will rank you as an "Amatuer", a "Pro", or a "Master". The more you play the more XP you'll earn, and the closer you'll get to becoming a "Master" "Pure Pool" player.

About the gameplay ...

Gameplay in "Pure Pool" is actually much easier than it's real life counterpart. Your controls incorporate the two thumbsticks as well as the four face buttons of the Dualshock4 controller. The "Left Thumbstick" will enable you to position the angle of your cue near the cue ball for a more precise shot. You can go high, low, or even add spin to the cue strike with an added press of the "CIRCLE" button. By pushing downward on the "Right Thumbstick', and pressing "UP" afterwards you will strike the cue ball sending it towards it's intended target. For those of you looking to scope out the table, and strategically plan which ball to send to where you can use the "Stand Up" function by pressing, and holding the "SQUARE" button. With the applied use of the "Left Thumbstick" you can move around the table as if you were walking around it, so that you can see the table from each of it's four sides.

When it comes to lining up the cue ball with the intended targets (bank / ball) you'll find that the game offers the player a distinct advantage with a displayed cue ball path trajectory highlight. The path highlight is divided up into two different extended lanes/strips including a white path highlight that coincides with the cue ball, and an orange path highlight that coincides with where the target ball will go if struck. It negates the whole line of sight realism that goes with playing a real life pool game, and ultimately makes "Pure Pool" more of an arcade style experience.

The Verdict ...

Whether you choose to play it offline, or online "Pure Pool" is one of those relaxing zen style gaming experiences that will draw you in, and make you lose track of time. It features the perfect blend of competitive play, and outright fun. On top of the many different offline, and online offerings you'll find plenty of replay value, because of the game's applied ranking system, and XP application. Features such as the downloadable Gamer DNA will help you to practice against real life online opponents whom you may want to defeat later on as well as the VooFoo gaming staff whose Gamer DNA can be downloaded for free.

In the way of offline offerings the "Career" mode will give you a proper tournament experience, and enable you to become a better pool player in real, and virtual life. As far as online goes it is just as fun, and educational as the offline experience in that you'll be able to face off against many real life skilled pool players (me being one of them). All in all this game is good for both it's educational purposes, and for it's gameplay offerings. It's definitely a must buy in my opinion, and should not be missed if you own a PS4 console! I do hope you choose to buy this game, and not download a pirated copy. Illegally downloading this game greatly hurts the chances that we'll see any more games from VooFoo, and their co-developers. I don't think you want that, and I know I certainly don't want to see that happen. This is a game worth paying for. Trust me.

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