“ Genre: Sports, Rating: T - (Teen), Manufacturer: Activision „
I would consider myself as a keen admirer of pool games on the whole and after owning a PSP with a limited amount of games I decided to search for the best pool game available for my hand held device.
After browsing online for pool related games I was somewhat surprised at how few there were on the market. Officially there are only 3 currently available to buy; Pocket Pool, World of Pool and The Hustle: Detroit Streets (not to be confused with the Kung Fu movie). I read some reviews on these games from a selection of computer game sites and quickly discovered that The Hustle was the best option. The other two games are somewhat hard to get hold of. Take Play.com for example, they only stock The Hustle so you don't really get much choice there!
A short browse on the web shows that you can pick this up brand new for around £8 - £10 which is good value for money.
The difference in this game compared to others on the market is mainly due to the cut scenes which give you a story line which your character follows. You are basically a down-on-your-luck hustler who is new to the city of Detroit (which is renowned for its tough and unforgiving streets) where your survival is based around your ability to win cash and respect through beating opponents throughout various clubs, bars and pool halls in the city.
At the beginning you have a choice of two characters to chose from; Jack Stone or Kat Hudson. Once you have chosen a character to represent and setup your basic profile you get a background into your character's fall from grace which is the start to all the cut scenes in the game. The volume on the cut scenes always seem low so you may find yourself turning this up but then turning it back down again once you start playing a match. The storylines are rather weak so don't expect anything special, although they are a nice addition to the game and break up a lot of the match play between building locations on the map.
The basic aim of the game is to start challenging opponents at each venue in order to gain respect with initially starts off at 0.00%. Once you have made and completed your first challenge match you are usually then challenged by other opponents at the venue. As a challenge is made, a bet is placed which consists of either a lower set price per ball potted or a higher price per rack. This can be tweaked if you feel you can't afford to lose too much money or if you're felling flash. Expect to get your opponent to comment verbally on your betting amounts where they may complain that they are not playing for such high or low stakes but there is always a middle ground that you can agree on.
The type of game that is challenged can range from the usual 9 ball or 8 ball to something more interesting such as 3 ball or 'bank'. I'll explain these in more detail in next section.
Some challenges can include a bet with a set amount of tries to complete a trick shot (named with a relevant theme). You get a brief description on what you need to do to complete the trick with a bit of advice and then you have a punt at it. It is not always the winning that increases your respect as by merely accepting a challenge and having a go at it will gain a small amount of respect.
Once you have defeated a few opponents at the venue you are typically presented with a boss character who tends to be that little bit harder than the rest but nothing too difficult.
In terms of navigation, you are free to go from place to place on the map as you please but this is not free roaming GTA style of any kind, you simply have to choose it by highlighting it manually from an on-screen map. Other locations are unlocked as you gain full respect in previous venues but you can always go back to the 'shop' at any time with more and more cash in your pocket to buy luxury items but these do not add any benefit to the gameplay.
The main thing that makes this game attractive is the variation in game play as there are lots of different game types to choose from when challenged or challenging an opponent.
8 Ball - This is the standard UK pool game where you pot spots or stripes with the winner potting the black at the end. Ball in hand is given for committed fouls rather than 2 shots. This is a great classic but I would prefer not to have 'ball in hand' for a foul but that's my preference.
9 Ball - This is the standard US pool game where you pot each ball in numerical order from 1-9. The winner is the person who pots the 9 ball at the end. This is one of the more enjoyable games as they can differ in length according to how the balls are laid out after a break, especially if you are able to perform a potted plant onto the 9 ball early in the game (which is an instant win).
3 Ball - Each player has a go at sinking 3 balls from a break with the winner being the person who pots all 3 balls with the least amount of shots. This is one of the shortest games you can play but it's a great way to earn quick cash. After you've had a few goes at this you will quickly realise how to pot at least one ball from a break off which makes the challenge easier for you.
10 Ball Snooker - Almost the same as regular Snooker but there are less red balls on the table, the usual rules apply here. If you've played the World Snooker Challenge games then this is almost identical in game play.
Bank - Each player takes a turn at trying a bank shot or a double as I prefer to call it. You have to nominate a ball and the pocket in which you are trying to pot it into for the bank. A point is scored for every successful shot whereby you get an additional turn until you miss.
I am not a huge fan of this game as it can drag on for ages because with every missed shot the balls end up near the pockets making it almost impossible to make another bank shot.
Straight - The rules for this game are simple in the words of John Vergo "pot as many balls as you can". It is practically a free for all where you can pot any ball you like but in a nominated pocket.
Other games include 6 Ball, 10 Ball, Rotation Pool & Bowliards (not billiards).
The in-game controls take a few matches to get used to and it can be frustrating at first trying to figure out how to nominate a different ball or pocket when playing a plant for example. It is easy to forget about changing the nomination which does lead to giving away unnecessary fouls. The other control I found difficult to discover was to move the cue ball when you have a ball in hand. It turned out to be a 2 button combination which wasn't the easiest to figure out. I'm not one for reading the manual before hand as I only refer to it when I'm absolutely stuck.
I have found when playing the game that the analogue stick on the PSP is pretty much useless for this game and it does not perform the same actions as the D-pad. It is easier to move around and select your shot with the direction pad and then set the power accordingly.
Prior to every shot you have a nice aim guide of where the cue ball is going to fall and where the object ball is going to end up. This is all well and good but it does make the game rather easy. The only way you are likely to end your visit at the table is if you make a mistake on the power or English or happen to snooker yourself.
When you have set the power on a shot you have a bar next to this meter with a white block and a moving arrow. In order to maintain an accurate shot you have to stop the arrow in the white block otherwise you could end up miss hitting the shot or the ball completely.
In positioning terms you can easily apply English to a shot using the circle button. The aim guide is altered as a result of adding English but this doesn't give you perfect accurate positioning if you're applying side to the ball as it is quite a hard shot to pull off. Top spin or screw back however, are very easy to master. Elevations for jump shots are also quite hard to pull off but I guess it represents real life. Some of the trick shots you have to complete as a challenge require English or elevation so it is obvious why they are sometimes difficult to complete but practice makes perfect.
When a shot has been taken I prefer to use the triangle button to look at a birds-eye-view so that you can see what is happening on the entire table as opposed to the camera focusing on just your shot.
If you want to speed up the game a little then you can disable computer shot animations and then use the circle button to whiz through your opponents shot. No more waiting around for your turn!
You can expect players in the background to heckle at you when you pull off great shots or miss easy ones and you often see background characters squaring up to each other with some pushing and shoving (no doubt having a scrap over who's going to play next).
The character animations are quite basic but the graphics do fair reasonably well. The movement on the players taking a shot and those in the background are nothing spectacular but for a PSP you won't worry about that too much.
The graphics quality on the balls and table is average at best so if you want something more graphic intensive then this isn't the game for you. Consider a different pool game on a PS3 or Xbox 360.
In relation to the sound, the quality is pretty decent on the voices and cut scenes but the background music during gameplay has little variation and can get quite repetitive.
Like the majority of PSP games you can also play this multiplayer through Wi-Fi and challenge your friends to a whole range of different games with customised settings. I've not had the luxury of testing this for multiplayer yet but from what I've read there doesn't seem to be any glitches that would result in a bad experience.
If you like your snooker games and have had a shot at any of the World Snooker Challenge series for the PSP then you will definitely like this game as they appear to have a very similar if not identical game engine. The way in which you create or line up your shots and the way in which the balls are stroked are practically the same.
The variation on the game selection is probably enough to warrant a purchase as it has great durability. I don't think you would easily get board with this game even though some of the challenges can be repetitive and you think you aren't really getting anywhere (After all, no rack of pool can really be the same).
I think overall they could have vastly improved this game with a bit of free roaming from bar to bar and stronger story lines in the cut scenes. Having said that the pool mechanics are spot on and if you only care about getting access to a decent pool game on the PSP then this is the right choice.