‘Pure Pool’ Review

Platforms PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Publisher Ripstone Games Developer VooFoo Studios

Genre Sports Platform Played Xbox One

Getting together with friends over a few drinks and shooting several games of pool is a fairly common pastime, and Pure Pool sets out to faithfully recreate that environment but in the comfort of your own home. The minute you start the game, you will find yourself in a lounge, ambience and all. The background music is subtle yet smooth, the idle chatter of patrons is barely audible, and the lighting makes the lounge feel warm and welcoming, giving players the perfect setting for a relaxing game of 8-ball.

Rather than a traditional menu screen, Pure Pool presents players with a practice table to play on if they feel the desire to hone their skills without an objective or opponent. In addition to the brief tutorial, this practice table is great for learning how the game handles. There is certainly a learning curve, and if you jump straight into playing against others, AI or human, you will likely find yourself losing frequently. If you need to work on perfecting the amount of power to put into your shots to prevent the cue ball from being potted (sinking into one of the pockets), the practice table will continuously reset the table once you clear it, allowing you to practice to your heart’s content.

Once you feel comfortable with your skills, there are several different game modes to choose from. The challenge mode provides four unique tasks with varying goals. Whether you are trying to clear the table in the shortest possible time or attempting to pot at least one ball each turn until the table is clear, each challenge has individual leaderboards allowing you to see how you stack up to the rest of the world. Creating your own pool league comprised of friends and strangers alike is something you are also able to do, playing against one another whenever the others happen to be around and willing. In a similar vein, you may challenge anyone to a game at any point through the “Players” menu or download their “DNA” allowing you to play against them offline. The final game mode is also the most substantial: the career. Career mode allows players to choose whether they want to enter the 8-ball or 9-ball tournaments and pick the difficulty. Regardless of which difficulty is chosen, the opponents become tougher as you progress through the tournament, but the higher difficulties start off far more challenging and only become harder. Even on the lowest difficulty, opponents will eventually become tough and rarely miss shots or foul when you play against them. This can be incredibly frustrating if you are not terribly skilled at the game, but also provides a massive sense of accomplishment after overcoming a particularly troublesome opponent.

The career mode also rewards players with stars for completing certain tasks while playing a game. As stars accumulate, the player will unlock various things such as new pool cues. Each match has three objectives which will generally get increasingly difficult as you progress through the tournaments. Scattered throughout the career mode are challenges for the player to complete. These challenges are identical to those available from the main menu, but offer stars just as the actual matches do. When it comes to playing against opponents, you will be playing either 8-ball or 9-ball depending on which career you chose, but there are occasionally game variants you will come across as well. One such variant is called “Killer” which requires each player to pot a ball each turn or else they lose one of their three lives. Upon losing your last life, you lose the match. Different matches such as this offer a welcome change to the constant games of 8 or 9-ball.

Within the game, there are several customization options such as the table’s design, colour, and your pool cue. While these are not monumental changes nor do they offer a plethora of options, it is a nice touch to be able to modify the pool table you stare at for the entirety of your play time. While touching on the aesthetics of the game, Pure Pool is gorgeous. All of the surfaces appear as they should and even from the minute you enter the lounge area of the game, everything looks fantastic. There were times however, most notably when I was shooting from the far side of the table, when I found myself wishing that the corner pockets were slightly brighter or simply more visible because the lighting tends to blur the edges of the table and the pockets into one dark corner. This becomes a bit of an issue when you are trying to make a precise shot from a distance in the hopes of winning, but you can barely differentiate where the table’s cushions end and the pocket begins. While you can wander around the table for a better look, it is impossible to line up your shot while doing so, meaning that your shot becomes more of an educated guess than a skilled shot.

Playing online is something many players will likely find themselves turning to once they have hit an impasse in the career mode or have finished all of the tournaments and difficulties, but it is this portion of the game I found to be somewhat clunky. Instead of having a simple “matchmaking” menu option, you can either start a league and begin inviting friends, hoping they accept and then wait until you are both ready to play at the same time, join various other leagues and just as before, hope that other people are ready at the same time as you, or you can select people from the “Players” menu and issue challenges to them, but of course it requires them to agree to your challenge. What could be a matter of 30 seconds to simply pair you up with anyone else who is looking for an opponent at the same time is drawn out into a much lengthier ordeal of trial and error, hoping one of the individuals you challenge is also looking for a game.

The controls of the game are fairly straightforward and there is a small legend on the bottom of the screen when it is your turn just in case you happen to forget the various things you can do to your shot before you take it. These modifications include applying a spin and angling your cue from any direction. Initially, the number of times you will use things such as spin is fairly minimal however as you get into the harder difficulties, modifying your shots when at a trickier angle is almost essential. Simply shooting the cue ball hard in a direction will not guarantee you success by any means and patience is often a virtue when lining up a shot.

Pure Pool is clearly a simulation pool game and it offers a truly authentic billiards experience (although most pool halls are not in a classy lounge atmosphere). Every aspect of the gameplay is genuine and polished to recreate the popular pastime in virtual form. The way the balls make contact with one another, the way trajectories change upon impact, watching balls bounce off of the cushions and narrowly missing the pocket, even knocking a ball off of the table, all of these variables are present with the title and add to the charm. Whether you are a more experienced pool player or one who has minimal or casual experience with the hobby (like myself), Pure Pool provides a fun way to relax and simply unwind. If you happen to belong to that latter category and are not terribly familiar with all of the intricacies and rules of 8-ball or 9-ball, this game will allow you to learn as you play. It may not lay out each specific rule, but after a few matches you will begin to learn what you can and cannot do in addition to picking up the specific terms used within the game.

The title’s weakest point is easily the online play function as it is not terribly streamlined, which may lead to a weaker online community than if it were to have a more simplified matchmaking process. In terms of longevity, many will find that once they have reached the point in the career mode that they either cannot pass or have completed to their satisfaction, the game will not present a burning desire to play unless you are looking for a party game or something simple and relaxing to play. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it certainly fills a spot in the market and provides a game that can be enjoyed at leisure, it simply will not have players playing for months on end without loading up another game.

The Good

  • Faithful billiards simulation.
  • Variables recreated perfectly.
  • Relaxing and enjoyable experience.
  • Visually stunning.

The Bad

  • Clunky online matchmaking system
  • Limited game modes

The Score: 8.2