What a difference a patch makes. When we first sat down with Pure Pool, we thought it was a pretty good game, but there were a few big things that really let it down. Top of the list of major annoyances was the perpetually present notifications window at the top of the screen that told you when people started playing the game. Not just your friends, mind you - we mean everyone. Oddly enough, while a pop-up telling you when friend's logged in would have had its uses, being notified when the lovely "pothead", "snookerpoopy", and the ever popular "bollockface" log in wasn't at the top of our most wanted list.
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But luckily, thanks to the magic of the internet and the power of the patch, that's all been changed. Now, the only thing that'll get in between you and potting black is your own skill, and little bit of luck.
Pure Pool, as you probably don't need a university education in cryptography to guess, is a pool simulator on the PS4 and PC, that's soon to release on Xbox One. Promising the most realistic simulation of shiny round things this side of the annual bald guys' convention, the game pushes the PS4's processing power to produce some very shiny visuals, backed up by pretty solid gameplay.
In a game requiring as much precision as this, the controls are always important, and Pure Pool doesn't disappoint. Your aim's controlled on the left analogue stick, and the power behind your shot's set using the right. Pull the stick back, and you'll pull your cue back on the game - push it forwards, and you'll whack your cue forwards and take your shot. It's simple enough in concept, but it can be a little bit tricky to judge the power you're putting into your shot when you first start playing - although, in a way, that's just like real pool too.
While we'd have preferred a few more methods of control - a three press power meter, like on the golf games of old might have been a nice touch - what there is does the job fine, and gives you all the input you need to start taking on the game's many tournaments - or challenge your friends to a match. On the single player side of things, in the "career" mode, there's six different leagues on offer across two different types of pool - 8 ball and 9 ball, each consisting of five tournaments, which are made out of between half a dozen and a dozen games each. That's plenty of pool for your money however you look at it, but there's plenty of replay value here too. Every game you play in these leagues has three sub objectives to complete, that challenge you to win in a particular way. Whether it's making sure you pot a ball more than 200cm away from the cue ball, or winning while your opponent still has four balls on the table, there's plenty of little bonus goals for completionists (like ourselves) to try for.
In terms of multiplayer, the game has full support for both online and offline multiplayer, and much like the notification system, the online multiplayer has been much improved since the patch, too. Now letting you watch your opponent line up and take their move in near real time, it's a great way to wind down after a stressful day, or pass the time while waiting for the rest of a group to come online, with plenty of modes to try out. We did, however, have a few weird issues with the multiplayer mode, including games dropping out randomly, although it was only fairly intermittently, and didn't happen anywhere near often enough to be a major issue. More weirdly, on several occasions, we had the game freeze up mid multiplayer game. The only way to get out of it was to open the menu, and come back into the game through there, at which point your cue disappeared. Trying to play a game of pool without a cue is something of a challenge - and to be honest, it would probably have made for a pretty good bonus Easter egg mode. Bug? Feature.
Outside the career mode, there's a few other little challenge modes to try your hand at, too. Putting a different spin on the standard pool game, these modes throw out the rules, and instead challenge you to do something special, whether it's potting the balls as fast as you can, seeing how many balls you can pot before a timer runs out, or trying to pot as many balls as possible, consecutively.
However, as much as it packs in to a small download game, there are a few disappointments here too. Perhaps the biggest is that the game has a distinctly online bent, to the point where choosing "Quick game" on the main menu attempts to put you into a game against another player online. Of course, that can easily be avoided, but the game's "players" list has the potential to be more annoying in the long run. Choosing the players tab on the main menu will bring up a list of everybody who's online, and lets you challenge any one of them to a game. Some people (us included) would likely prefer to not be included in that list, to avoid any random challenges, but there's no option to appear offline. It's also a bit naff that some of the modes are only available in multiplayer against a human opponent (whether online or off), so if you're on your own, you won't be able to access three challenge modes - although there is still plenty of pool to go around.
Still, at £7.99, Pure Pool accomplishes everything it set out to do. Cheap, cheerful, and plenty of fun, this is a game that's well worth a look if you're looking for something a bit more relaxing to pass the time. With plenty of modes, a pretty substantial single player game, and loads of replay value, it has "one more go" appeal in spades, and should keep you busy for quite a while.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4