Chalk this one up as a success. Pure Pool on Nintendo Switch is a precision-polished port and a brilliant recreation of the sport.
Sometimes you play a game for review and spend dozens of hours exploring everything it has to offer. Delving into every nook and cranny, finding every power-up, hunting down a gazillion collectables, crafting nicknacks, and defeating every boss. And then, after much deliberation – and with 800 words written – you score it, I dunno, four out of five.
Sometimes you can play a game for five minutes and you can score it straight away. Pure Pool is one such game. I’ll save you the scroll. It’s a five out of five.
Never has a game been so appropriately named. Do you want pool? This is pool. And snooker too, as it happens. Both presented with pleasing simplicity but oodles of style.
Pure Pool is not a new game – it was first released for PlayStation 4 way back in 2014 – but due to its focused design and finely-tuned mechanics, it feels as fresh as ever on Nintendo Switch.
Too often in Switch reviews, we have to spend time remarking on the technical merits of a port or a game’s visual fidelity. None of that matters here. Pure Pool is graphically lovely, as crisp as an apple, and as smooth as Caramel Chew Chew. The balls and tables look almost photo-realistic and the physics feel true. It looks like pool. It feels like pool.
Six game variants are included, ranging from US 8-Ball and 9-Ball to Killer, Blackball, and Snooker. Online play is core to the experience and list of available players – including friends and randoms – is everpresent. Joining a game or hosting your own is never more than a few button presses away.
The game also employs a Player DNA system that monitors how you play, be it the strength with which you hit the cue ball, or your use of back-spin, for example. That DNA can then shared for use in offline games. It’s a neat mode that echoes Forza’s Drivatar technology.
If you prefer to play solo, a formidable and lengthy career mode awaits. Opponents quickly ramp up in difficultly and unlocking each tier is no easy task. But practice makes perfect, and practice is a pleasure.
A selection of challenges modes are also peppered throughout. One type asks you to clear a table with a specific time-limit, another to clear the table without missing any balls. My favourite is Checkpoint, in which you must pot as many balls as you can before the timer reaches zero, with each successful pot adding seven seconds to the clock.
Whichever mode you play, and whomever your opponent, the act of aiming a shot, adjusting the spin, and applying the right amount of force never becomes tedious. With the Switch in handheld mode, you can also play using the touch-screen. It’s responsive and works without issue but I much prefer the tactile pull and push of the analogue thumbsticks.
The production polish extends beyond the tables to the warm backdrop glow of trendy bar. Animated clientele, seemingly without a care in the world, sip drinks and engage in idle chatter while you sweat over pocketing the black. The background murmur is an audio wallpaper that, having been sat at home for nine months, feels alien but reassuringly comforting.
The game’s after-hours ambience is completed by a selection of beautiful jazz and lounge compositions from Etch. It’s the kind of score that is rarely acknowledged in annual roundups but, oh my, it’s lovely. (I hereby backdate my personal 2014 soundtrack of the year award to the game.)
If you are searching for a pool or snooker simulator that runs beautifully and feels authentic, there’s very little to criticise with Pure Pool. Just one thing, in fact. With the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller rightly receiving acclaim for its haptic feedback, it’s a shame to report that the game doesn’t support the Switch’s underused HD rumble. The technology squirrelled away within Nintendo’s controllers can be really effective and I wish it was here to enhance the impact when the cue hits a ball or to emphasise the satisfaction of executing a perfect kiss shot.
There are lots of big expensive games vying for your money this winter, from shooters and RPGs to dystopian open-world adventures and a familiar roster of licensed sports sims. I honestly don’t know if any of them will provide better value, or have the longevity, of Pure Pool. It’s pool. It’s pure. And it’s just about perfect.
Pure Pool review
Platform: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Developer: VooFoo Studios
Publisher: RipStone Games
Release Date: Out Now
After one hell of a year – one in which I haven’t been able to socialise with friends in real life – it’s an absolute joy to escape to this cosy little bolthole and shoot some pool. Pure Pool is exactly what its name suggests and an essential purchase for all fans of the sport.
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