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Friday, November 20, 2020

Review: Pure Pool (Nintendo Switch)


Review by Matt S.

Ball porn. That’s right. That’s how I’m opening this review. Ball porn. We often use “XXXX porn” to describe a game that is so meticulous in its recreation of a real-world object that it almost seems to fetishise that object. It’s usually something we use in reference to vroom vroom racing simulators: Gran Turismo is car porn, for example. But it applies to Voo Foo Studios’ work in recreating the experience of pool too in Pure Pool. Hence, ball porn. 

There’s actually a lot that goes into recreating the game of pool. It seems like it should be simple – the space the game plays on is limited and the number of elements involved are minimal – you just need a handful of balls (oh, I’m having too much fun writing this review) and a couple of holes to sink the balls into. But doing that well is hard. The physics are the most obvious area that separates the good and the really not good pool simulators. Pool is a game of angles and minute fractions of a degree and if the physics behind the velocities of the balls, and the way they bounce off one another is out by even a tiny amount, it is noticeable. It’s quite impressive that Pure Pool is still the top game for this, given that the original release for it was way back in 2014. 

Aesthetics are surprisingly important to pool too. As a developer, you’ve got to render the shiny balls right. You’ve got to capture the satisfying “clack” as the balls careen into one another just right. A good pool simulator works hard to give players the tactile impression of smooth, clean, reflective balls, and then the really good pool simulator will also try hard to capture the aesthetics of spaces where pool is played. The hazy bar with the jazz music. The hotel commons area. The dimly lit competition rooms, with pools of light forming over the surface of the table to help you concentrate on those balls. Pure Pool nails all of this. Pool is, ultimately, a game of decadence, and Pure Pool recognises this better than most.


Another great benefit of Pure Pool is just how comprehensive the package is. There are six different types of pool to play, ranging from US 8-Ball and Snooker through to less traditional variations like Killer and Accumulator. You can play games against the AI offline or, of course, online play. You can set up leagues and competitions and really delve deep into competitive pool play. The infrastructure behind the game is rock solid (and it’s a slower-paced game anyway so latency isn’t quite the same issue that it might be in other games), and it’s a game that’s friendly to people of all skill levels, thanks to the helpful guide lines that show you how the balls will move around the table. 
 
That doesn’t affect the skill required to play the game, mind you. I know that from screenshots it looks like Pure Pool must be the easiest game on the planet, because you know exactly where the balls will go after being hit and that makes pocketing them quite easy. The reality is that understanding the angles of pool is only the first level of skill involved in this game. It’s the strategy and your ability to position the shots to go after the right ones at the right time that mean that competitive pool players will roll over a beginner. Even looking past the potential opponents you can meet online, the AI will challenge you for most of your journey through to pool expertise.

There’s not much else that can be said about Pure Pool (also we’ve reviewed it previously, so check that out). VooFoo Studios has successfully made a game that remains relevant and feels current over half a decade after it first released it, and for “sports games”, that’s a rare achievement indeed. You’re not going to find better ball porn anywhere, and so, even though this is a port of a six-year-old game with very little added to it, it’s great that it’s now portable and on the Switch.



- Matt S. 
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb

The critic was provided with a copy of this game for review.

Review: Pure Pool (Nintendo Switch)
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