From classic software designer Archer Maclean (Dropzone, International Karate) and developer Awesome Games comes Pool Paradise, a billiards simulation title set to the backdrop of a colorful tropical island. It's something of an odd combination. After all, breaking waves, sand, and coconut trees don't usually go hand-in-hand with 8-ball and pool sharks. And there literally are pool sharks - yes, underwater carnivores complete with sharp teeth and a keen mind for betting. There is, in fact, no ignoring the lightheartedness that sets the pace and atmosphere in Pool Paradise. But don't be entirely fooled by it. This is not really a kids' game. That is to say, it's not just for kids. For there is a comparatively serious billiards experience waiting beyond the beaches.
- Travel to a tropical island and play pool
- 11 variations of pool (including UK and US 8-ball and 9-ball, Killer and new unique games such as Switchball and Rotation, plus many more)
- Five modes of play: Practice, Championship, Tournament, Trickshots and various sub-games
- 10 different tournament ladders
- 10 different table sizes and shapes, both indoors and out on the beach
- Eight camera modes from close-in chase-cam, to static overhead.
- Unique analog control method offers total control over shots
- Unlockable mini games, including Beach Darts, Dropzone Arcade Game, Skeepool Ramp and Coconut Shy, plus more
- Beach shop offering additional pool gadgets and equipment
- Loan Shark to lend you more cash - or bite your head off!
- Fully animated island. Watch the waves roll in and the palm trees swaying in the breeze.
- Day and night lighting cycle. As the sun sets, the moon rises.
- Consultancy provided by Jimmy White - making Pool Paradise the most authentic game of its type
You're on an island. There's sand. There are trees. There are huts. And there are - naturally - pool tables. So if you're a billiards nut, maybe you have found paradise. There's no tangible storyline here, and oversight that disappointingly seems to conflict with the presentation of the game, which is otherwise engulfed by the island theme. There are few characters, in fact, save for the underwater loan shark and a few dozen floating pairs of hands. But you know what to do all the same: practice, play, compete, advance, and eventually become champion. And it's really that simple. Of course, the process is not quite as it easy as it might sound.
Awesome Games has wrapped the title's menu system in the island theme, which is admirable. You maneuver between huts for different options. You can, for instance, take part in a practice game by choosing one hut or you can shop for items to buy by choosing another. There are Crazy Tables to unlock by advancing through the meat and potatoes of the title, which is of course the Competition Mode. The overall presentation is well done and, despite some technical drawbacks, visually pleasing. However, once you've gone back and forth between huts for the thirtieth time, you will likely wish for an option to speed up the camera swing, as we did.
Pool Paradise delivers a commendable number of goods and options. There are some 11 variations of pool, from US 8-Ball and 9-Ball to Switchball and Rotation, to name a few. There are Championship and Tournament Modes, not to mention Trickshots. There are 10 different Tournament ladders and 10 different table sizes. But the most impressive extras - and they really are just that - are the sub-games, which can also be unlocked and purchased by competing in the main mode. These are mini-games complete with real physics and different play mechanics. Archer Maclean's classic arcade game Dropzone is included. So are fully playable representations for Coconut Shy, Darts, Hidden Cave, and Skeepool, and each is fun for different reasons.
All said and done, though, none of the extras mean anything if the billiards gameplay mechanics are not realistic, engaging and satisfying. Luckily, they are - that is, for the most part. Pool Paradise plays well and delivers pool fans with a wide variety of control and display options to best present the experience. Analog aim and camera movement enable you to set the precise angle and view at all times. You can add side spin and/or backspin/topspin. You can set the power of each shot by pulling back and pushing forward on the analog stick. These mechanics feel solid. Our only gripe is that there's a certain amount of "umph!" missing from pulling back and then pushing forward on the cue stick. Meanwhile, you have the freedom to toggle camera views with the Z button at any point, which allows you to dynamically see the action from top-down, side, or on-table angles, all integral for shot planning. Physics are realistic minus a few glitches here and there. Pool balls have lifelike weight, momentum and inertia, and react with one another appropriately. Adding spin, bouncing off corners, smacking into other balls or even jumping over them, is all possible - and further, these moves mimic their real life counterparts impressively. That said, we did encounter some wonky physics routines where balls would, on very rare occasions, seem to react inappropriately with their surrounding, which is unfortunate. Meanwhile, opponent artificial intelligence can be both impressively stupid and difficult depending on the challenger, but it's never too difficult.
There are some technical frustrations and oversights worth mentioning. First, the game makes you sit through bloated animations of your challenger's floating hands moving around the pool table to his or her next shot, which eats up time and slows matches. There's no way to skip it, which can be discouraging when all you want to do is play. The camera system feels static and jerky and the game's framerate can and sometimes does dip, despite the fact that the environments themselves are low-polygon and low-resolution in presentation. Disappointments, yes, but even combined these drawbacks do little to scratch what is otherwise a fun billiards experience.
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