This review is being written fashionably late but it all happens for a reason. The initial beta copy that I received of Pocket Snooker wasn’t exactly the most user friendly game in the world. Even the first release I got was a bit rough. The multiplayer features weren’t developed. Lacking some important aids, like plotting the path of your cue ball, it may have been easier to operate the 3D camera but it wasn’t easy for novices to pick up snooker. However, having touched upon the current version of Pocket Snooker 3D, I can honestly say this one has the potential to dominate the genre.
The 3D aspect of Pocket Snooker is interesting. It gives realistic ball physics and the ability to rotate, pan and assume the view from the eyes of a snooker player. The graphics may be simple but like Virtual Snooker on the PC, this title doesn’t strive to be more than what it needs to be and the graphics certainly get the job done.
Control and accuracy are tough things to get in a pool/snooker title, especially since your primary mode of control, via the stylus, is inherently imprecise. We’re not all brain surgeons out here. In answer to this challenge, the developers from Pocket-G have implemented a two-tier system (panel and actual pool table) in controlling this aspect. It mirrors the pool/snooker simulators found on the PC. First, you get to choose which portion of the ball you want to hit, which, to my limited knowledge at the local pool hall, means whether you want the ball to keep rolling after it hits its target or whether you want it to stop. Obviously, you want it to stop if you’re about to go into the pocket yourself. The second part of aiming involves adjusting the amount of force you’d like in striking the ball. This is toggled with a pair of simple add/subtract buttons. If turned on, there are also sight lines to help you determine where the cue ball will go so you can adjust your aim around the table. After all that, you simply tap the strike button and you’ll make your move.
If it sounds like a lot to get a shot off, it is a lot but that’s because of the emphasis on realism. There are some quirks, particularly in working the tilt/pan functions of the camera system to get a good overview of the playing area. But with practice, it can become pretty intuitive and if you know some basic Newtonian physics, you’ll be well on your way to clearing tables.
Despite the ability to pan around the table, the conversion to 3D has dropped the players from the picture completely. It’s like a game between two phantom ghosts at the local Halloween pub and the regular pool hall adornments in the background are summarily missing. The one element that gives the game a little personality is the inclusion of music but that doesn’t make up for the flat colors used for the pool table itself. The balls, which are simple polygons, animate quickly but lack the realistic shine of their real life counterparts.
Arguably, the piece de resistance of the whole game is the multiplayer component. Using any connection that can get you on a TCP/IP network (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, infrared, GPRS) you can setup a client/server game where one player will act as a host and the other will initiate a direct connection with the IP manually. There’s no in-game lobby but the multiplayer is pretty smooth and enjoyable if both parties can cope with the slow pace of snooker. Be careful of drifting out of range, however, especially if you’re using ‘personal area network’ technologies like Bluetooth.
Ultimately, it seems cliché but if you like snooker and play pool in real life, you’ll like Pocket Snooker 3D. In the past, the serious snooker/pool titles always separate the playing area and the controls. That makes it potentially jarring for the newcomer who has to look at cryptic buttons like: +Force, -Force, +Zoom, etc.
When you look at past pool or snooker titles, you'll find that none of them are released on a consistent basis. Typically, they have a very long shelf life. When was the last Virtual Pool title out? 2000. When was the last Virtual Snooker title out? 1996. Pocket Snooker 3D has that potential to nail down a niche and maintain a commanding lead in it for many years to come. Some rough spots need to be polished to make the game more accessible but that’s something snooker fans should be able to overlook.
[10/10] Program Size
[09/15] Learning Curve