Four years ago, VooFoo Studios released their first game on the PlayStation 3, bringing the sport of billiards to home consoles with Hustle Kings. A couple of years later the game was ported to the PlayStation Vita, allowing cross-platform multiplayer between the two platforms. At the tail end of the generation, CherryPop Games raised the bar with Pool Nation, adding entertaining trick shots, challenge modes and plenty of customized and unique ball sets, pool cues and tables. While VooFoo Studios’ newest addition to their Pure series has plenty of customization, all of which can be changed at any time. Pure Pool was designed for gamers looking to play the most authentic pool simulation ever created.
The initial load for Pure Pool takes slightly longer than the average digital PS4 game, but will be the only load time you will have to sit through during your session, regardless of how many games you play. Once loaded, you are dropped into your own game of pool, where you are free to shoot around or hop into any of the single-player or multiplayer modes. I should also mention the backdrop for the game is the cleanest looking bar (or pub) I have ever seen; there isn’t a single stain to be found on the pool table. Originally, the top of the screen was a constant feed for players that are online at the time, but this has been thankfully been updated (as of 8/26) with the play-by-play of the current match and if one of your friends comes online.
Pure Pool features a handful of different game modes, some of which can be played both single-player and multiplayer. US 8-Ball and 9-Ball are the most widely known game types with 8-Ball being more prevalent here in America. In 8-Ball, you and your opponent are tied to either solid or striped balls depending on who pockets a ball first. The black number eight ball must be the last one to be pocketed; otherwise your opponent gets the win. Failing to pocket a ball results in the end of your turn, while not hitting one of your balls or pocketing your opponents allows a free drop of the cue ball for you competitor. More popular in Europe, 9-Ball requires the balls to be pocketed in numerical order.
There are three additional game modes (four since the 8/26 update) that weren’t familiar to me initially, but Pure Pool does include the rules for each of the different game modes. In Killer, each player has three lives and takes turns attempting to pocket any ball on the table. Failing to do so will cost you a life, but you gain an additional life for pocketing two of more balls with one shot. Similar to 9-Ball, Accumulator has players pocketing balls in numerical order, with points given equal to the number on the ball that is pocketed.
The latest game update to Pure Pool added a new game mode called BlackBall (UK 8-Ball). I had to read up on the basic rules, as I never heard of it before. Instead of solids or stripes, balls are either yellow or red, but the game is played quite similar to US 8-Ball. There are also a handful of single-player only challenge modes for you to get the best time/score possible on the online leaderboards. Royal Rumble (the best game mode name) adds a new ball every 30 seconds, as you attempt to clear the table as quick as possible, while Perfect Potter keeps track of how many balls are pocketed in a row.
The majority of my time was spent playing against the AI in the 8-Ball tournaments, the only game type I have played in real life. The controls are well thought out, with the right stick acting as the pool cue. There aren’t any power meters or timed button prompts, instead using the natural back and forth movement of the right analog stick to power the shots. You are able to add spin and change the angle in which you are going to hit the cue ball. The strength and speed of the shot is 100% dependent on how far back you pull the right stick and how fast you flick it forward. Without any meter to judge against, you’ll learn how much power to use after a few games. If you are like one of my friends, every shot will be a power shot and you’ll be seeing the white cue ball become a deadly projectile as it soars through the air. The weight of the pool balls can almost be felt as they realistically bang into each other, bounce off the sides of the table or drop into the corner pocket.
Aim assist is kept at a minimum with a yellow line showing you generally where “sure thing” shots will end up, but when you start adjusting the angle or attempt to pocket a ball across the table, the yellow assisting line will begin to widen and fade away or it may not be visible at all. This makes it much harder to make those complex shots, but also more satisfying when a ball just barely drops into a pocket. As a realistic simulation, Pure Pool doesn’t have a top-down view, which may come as a shock for anyone that has played previous pool games. Using the touchpad on the PS4 controller, you are able to peer left and right to see if a ball may be in your way or not. Standing up is the only way to get a slightly higher view of the table, but doing so will remove an assisting lines.
Taking a page from Forza Motorsport 5, VooFoo Studios has crafted unique player DNA profiles. Pure Pool closely monitors how long you take before attempting shots, if you go for safe or risky shots, and everything else in between. The concept behind this allows for you to play AI interpretations of not only your friends, but also the development team and celebrities at any time, instead of looking for an online opponent. Each player DNA I have played against has been quite different; you can even play against your own DNA. I was skeptical at first, but after winning against my own DNA, who generally attempting shots exactly as I would, I have become a believer. I am curious to see if I constantly hit the cue ball off the table, if it will mimic those actions.
Playing with a friend, either locally or online has been my highlight with Pure Pool. Being able to adjust the angles and power of your shots feels smooth without the restraint of on-screen meters. The way the balls react to the other balls on the table, reflect the lighting of the bar, as well as tuck neatly into pockets and softly touch the edges of the table is satisfying. At any point in a game, you are able to instantly update the color and decals of the table, as well as your pool cue (once unlocked). Pure Pool is a great addition to the Pure series, and the most realistic pool game to date.
Note: The PurePool review was written based on a digital PlayStation 4 version of the game.