To a blind man like John Milton, paradise is a conflicting ideal between heaven and hell. To the folks at Ignition Entertainment, paradise is gathering a bunch of pool sharks, some loan sharks and a sunny island with nothing but pool tables. Such is the premise of Pool Paradise, a tropical looking game includes all sorts of pool except the swimming pool. There plenty of variations, unique Ďstuntí tables (including one that is a spoof on skeeball) and some other after hour games like darts.
Pool Paradise is a fully 3D version of the recreational game. In pool and billiards, it will probably draw the most comparisons with Interplayís Virtual Pool classic. Pool Paradise features an interesting interface on the PC (a console version is also forthcoming). You can use the mouse to view different balls on the table as if you were standing there. You can also nominate balls and pockets (middle button). Using the left mouse button in the path between the ball and the cue, you can adjust your aim to cut the target left or right. You can also aim at different areas of the cue ball to make it follow or stop after hitting its target. All the things you expect would happen in real life will happen here. (Quite possibly for me, it will be better as my ball wonít Ďjumpí off the table.)
As you can tell, I am a pedestrian when it comes to pool. In fact, Iím more used to playing the British style where there are no numbers and only colors. There is some explanation in the game as to what the different rule sets are. Novices wonít have to worry about what to do next as Pool Paradise takes care of lining you up against the correct targets and explaining all fouls.
Without reading any instructions or looking at the controls, it took a good fifteen to twenty minutes for me to figure out all the basics in Pool Paradise. Those with less knowledge will probably take longer. Getting to the point where youíre bouncing balls off two or more sides into the pocket will take a good deal more time.
At the beginning of the game, youíre given a paltry $200 from a loan shark who also happens to be a genuine shark. You can use this money to compete in competitions with different personae in the game. Each Pool Paradise denizen comes with a skill rating. They also have a preference for a specific type of rule set. Some are so wacky Iíve never seen anyone play like that in real life. But then again, Iím not known to hang out at the local hall.
Even with a laid back music soundtrack, the game of pool can be frustrating to those without patience. It helps that the first opponents you meet in Pool Paradise are amateur humans. They make mistakes so if you canít make anywhere close to a good shot or commit a foul, you wonít be frustrated as you see them clear the table in front of you.
When you make progress, you are eligible to win different things. For example, there is a laser cue sight that lets you aim with deadly precision. Furthermore, the ladder will take you directly up to the popular 1980s legend Jimmy White. Incidentally, White also advised on the creation of Pool Paradise.
Some might begin to ask why there is a 3D engine in a pool game. After all, a 2D game might do just as well. Whether itís worth adding the third dimension or not, the developers do rely on the 3D engine to do even simple things like menus. When you travel to see the loan shark you move under the water. And while practicing on the beach, the passing of time from day to night enables the balls to give off a different sheen or reflection depending on the sun or moonlight. In the end, it adds to the ambiance of the game. Pool Paradise actually reminded me a lot of Virtual Resort: Spring Break.
Itís a good sign that after playing a few frames, I knew I had other high caliber titles waiting for critiques but I chose to play ďjust one more frameĒ before finally calling it a night. Pool Paradise will grace PCs and consoles on April 2nd.
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