One of the things I love about a new console launch is playing with games we wouldn’t usually touch. While we wait for our usual favourite genres and franchises to appear on the console, we’re willing to give games that are a little different ago; after all, we have to play something, right?
Hustle Kings is for me that kind of new release game. I’d overlook it if there was a mass of RPGs and strategy games to play, but as Dynasty Warriors and Ninja Gaiden are the only two games I would normally look at, I bought Hustle Kings on an impulse, and boy was I impressed.
The game oozes class from the moment you boot it up. A minimalist jazz club room, complete with chilled music sets the mood for a very elegant take on the game. As you would expect, there’s not much more to this game than pool, but just about every version of the game known own there is represented, from classic 8-ball through to Snooker (via DLC purchase). The balls, which are frankly the one graphical element of the game that is important, are brilliantly rendered, with perfectly smooth curves and lit just right for the virtual environment they’re sitting in.
There’s a fairly standard career mode which tries to break things up by throwing up trick shot challenges and the like, and both quick game and online multiplayer. There’s three different control options, depending on the complexity and fine control over the shot that you’re looking for. As a result the game is equably enjoyable by complete newcomers as experienced gamers.
And the physics are just spot on. The game offers generous guides for your shots and where the balls you hit will also go. It’s an easy introduction to the physics of pool, and as you become more experienced, you can turn those off to provide a more realistic challenge. The balls react exactly as you would expect them to on a real pool table, and the game features all the trick shots we expect from the game; it’s possible to put back spin on the ball, leap them over other balls, and in general feel like Yukio Akagariyama.
I have one criticism of this game, and it’s a big one; it’s a grind. As you play games of pool, you earn “Hustle Cash” which can be used to unlock goodies. That in itself isn’t so bad, except the rewards can be obscenely expensive. Why is this? Why because there’s some DLC that unlocks it for you without any effort, of course! I can accept that for freemium games, but if I pay for a game, I don’t want to feel like I have to cough up more money just to unlock stuff in a fair timeframe.
That issue aside, this is a brilliant game that is perfect for the portable format. Even better, buying this on the Vita allows you to unlock it on the PS3 for play at home. For such a cheap asking price, for a game that blows away anything (in terms of graphics, physics and gameplay options) that is on the iPhone, iPad or 3DS, Hustle Kings is a subtle, but brilliant showcase of what the Vita can do.