Lousy Hustler

Paul Newman and Larry Flynt would be ashamed of Pocket Pool. BY GARY HODGES

There was a time in my life when I might have actually enjoyed Pocket Pool a little bit. Back when I was 12, giving myself migraines from staring at scrambled cable porn, the notion of a game where I could "win" pictures of girls in their underwear would've seemed pretty cool. Heck, even the game's name might've sounded funny.

But unfortunately for the makers of Pocket Pool, I won't be channeling my inner 12-year-old to review their game, which is easily the worst I've ever played. The only way it could be worse is if the skanky models pictured within could reach out and give you an STD.

Still need convincing? Well, all right . . .

Here you go -- now there's no need to even rent the game.
Here you go -- now there's no need to even rent the game.

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Pocket Pool is an easy game to sum up: You play pool, and each win earns you pictures of women showing a little skin. Sex is the primary selling point here, with plenty of cleavage, bubblegum-pink lipstick, and teased hair in the ads. Savvy gamers would be suspicious of a game that needs that much T&A to sweeten the deal . . . and rightfully so. While Pocket Pool manages to offer a decent variety of cue games (eight-ball, nine-ball, snooker, and quite a few others), they're all a disaster to play.

When it comes to ball movement, nothing looks or feels quite right. The balls just don't behave like they would in the real world (or any other world, for that matter). They bounce off the rails at strange angles and sometimes even hover over pockets without dropping. Your cue ball feels more like a Wiffle Ball: It bounces around almost endlessly if nothing's in the way, yet it isn't hefty enough for a good break. This makes anything beyond the simplest shot wildly unpredictable -- and any attempt at advanced play pointless.

Though the game's difficulty level isn't adjustable, your computer opponent's skill varies wildly, even within the same game. In one turn it might sink five or six shots in a row, then squander the next few by blindly firing off fully powered shots, as if it doesn't even know where the pockets are.

And don't think you'll find refuge playing a friend: Pocket Pool's multiplayer option is limited to wireless networks with other PSPs, which means your buddy will need his own PSP and copy of the game. There might as well be no multiplayer version at all, since the odds of a Pocket Pool fan having a friend who also owns the game (or hell, even having a friend) seem long. Why not just allow players to pass the PSP back and forth between turns? It's either lazy programming or a lame attempt to drive sales.

Of course, buying Pocket Pool for a solid game of billiards is like lunching at a strip joint for its mean club sandwich: You're not fooling anyone. Alas, Pocket Pool can't even get the cheesecake right: Not only are the images pretty tame (the game may be rated "Mature," but it's not, in any sense), they're stingily doled out one or two at a time -- hardly worth the trouble. And mean as it may sound, the women really aren't much to look at. Sorry, but it had to be said.

 
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