Pool Paradise GameCube Review
Pool and Darts are the two great pub sports in the world, and whilst it’s easy enough to stick a dartboard on your bedroom wall, getting a pool table in the front room isn’t that simple. In the past there have been lots of attempts to bring pool to your console or PC and in that field one name has dominated. Archer Maclean has made a career out of pool simulations and this is his latest effort.
As you’d expect from a pool game, there is no real need for flashy graphics, so you’re not really expecting much. Even so, pool paradise does a good job of conveying the impression of a tropical island. The backdrops are suitably scenic and as time passes the changes from night to day are realistic looking. The venues for the pool games and mini games are nice enough and obviously a fair bit of thought has gone into the details. None of this was really necessary for a game of this type but it’s nice to know as much work has been put into the aesthetics of the game as has the gameplay. So overall, not stunning but certainly more than adequate.
The main game consists of playing pool (obviously), there are 30 different computer controlled players to choose from, all with humorous names, which seem to be based on famous characters or stereotypes. At the top of the rankings is the master himself, James (Jimmy) White, who Archer has had a long standing association with. Games with these players all require a stake, so before you can start playing you have to go and visit the Loan Shark, who humorously enough happens to be a real shark just under the surface of the nearby sea. He starts you off with $200 and you can always go and visit him again if you lose that straight away. Fortunately, unlike a real loan shark, you never have to pay him back. Once you’ve got your money, it’s off to play some pool.
You can start playing for money straight away, or there is the option of the practice table to hone your skills before you put any money on it. The 30 players are ranked according to skill and to play with them you need a corresponding amount of money to place on the outcome of the game, ranging from $40 for player 30 (Sandy Beach) to $10090 for the top ranking James White. Game types for these matches are set randomly for every player and change after every game you play. Game types include every possible version of pool you may have heard of, and then some.
These are 6 ball, UK 8 ball (the one you play down your local), US 8 ball (the same but with solid and striped colours on the numbered balls), 9 ball, 10 ball, 15 ball, 14 to 1, Bowilliards (which seems to be a cross between pool and bar billiards, Rotation, Killer (where you have to pot a ball every shot or you lose a life, winner is the person who doesn’t lose all their lives). As you win matches and earn money, you progress through the rankings. To rank higher than someone you have to have more money than them. So it can take a while to get above 31st place , but once you win against some higher placed players your rise through the ranks gathers pace.
Occasionally between matches you are offered the chance to play in various tournaments, which usually carries a $500 price tag. I tried a few of these but tended to get knocked out in the second or third round. I was unlucky with who I came up against though, getting James White in the second round is just my luck. As I never won one of these I’m not 100% sure what happens if you win, but as there is a trophy case in the main pool room, I’m guessing you get a trophy and some prize money.
The actual game of pool itself is flawless (as you’d expect from someone who’s whole life seems to be dedicated to creating the perfect game of video pool), everything you can do in a real game of pool you can do here. Many a time I have bounced a ball of the table by accident (something not normally found in pool games). Controls are simple and intuitive: the cue is controlled with the movement stick, the C-stick controls your view, you can put spin on the ball with the D-pad and actual shooting is done by analogue control. To shoot, just hold down the A button and you can pull the cue back and forth with the movement stick, it took a little getting used to but soon became second nature. You can select from several different viewpoints by holding the Z button and selecting using the control stick or D-pad.
Apart from the main game there are several mini games to be unlocked using your winnings. These range from a selection of odd shaped tables (T and L shaped, hexagonal, triangle and square, cross shaped, an Ice hockey table and a mini table), a coconut shy played with a cannon, skeepool (a target style game), darts (that other great pub sport), the secret cave (that’s all I’m saying, you’ll have to find out for yourself) and Archers classic retro shooter Dropzone (a defender derivative). With the exception of Dropzone all have similar controls to the main game and are easy to get to grips with, but quite tricky to get really good at.
Apart from the mini games, there are other things to unlock too, from a nice selection of cues and patterned baizes for the main table, a stuffed Dodo in a glass case (don’t ask me why, I have no idea) and a couple of useful gadgets. The first of these is a laser sight for your cue (cheap at only a $100) to help line up shots, this is really essential and should be your first purchase. The second is like a pair of night vision goggles, but rather than helping you see in the dark, when in use they plot the course of your shots and any balls that move due to it. This is very useful when you’re up to the very top ranking players (though some may see it as cheating) but only has a limited usage, a bar appears when in use and slowly shrinks as you use it, and at $5000 a go, it isn’t cheap.
Not really a lot to say here, the sound effects are as you’d expect, just the thump and click of pool balls really. There is a bit of ambient sound such as birds in the background. There are a nice selection of original tunes that play in the background which convey the tropical setting of the game well. Overall nice but nothing to write home about.
This all really depends on how much you like pool. If you’re a pool nut than it potentially could last you forever. If you’re not, though, I’d say when/if you make number one rank and win a few tournaments then you’d probably get bored of it. The mini games do add a fair bit though, and the multiplayer is excellent, so if you’ve got someone to play against then it’d be a title that you’d dig out from time to time.
This is as close as you’re going to get to playing pool on a tropical island short of shipping a pool table out to Barbados. The multiplayer has the potential to be a good party game and it is definitely the best pool game available right now, and probably for a while to come. And with the £19.99 price tag you really can’t go wrong.