Ever wanted to play pool against Satan? Hey, who hasn't?
As much as I wish differently, Ultimate 8 Ball isn't a game about the best bottle of Olde English 800 malt liquor ever bottled. Instead, it's one of the many pool simulations available for the PlayStation.
While Ultimate 8 Ball has most of the options and modes that previous games like Pool Hustler and Backstreet Billiards had, it doesn't put on a good show in the form of a plot-driven mode. The game's closest thing to this is the hustle mode, which lets you play any of the game's various versions of pool against opponents who vary in skill and appearance. Ever wanted to play pool against Satan? Hey, who hasn't? With Ultimate 8 Ball, you can rack 'em up with the devil himself and go at it.
There are 14 different pool variants on the disc, ranging from common games like eight ball and nine ball to more obscure games, such as speed pool, killer, and one pocket. These games can be played against the CPU opponents in single games or in the hustle mode. You can also set up tournaments with up to 16 players. The school-of-pool mode teaches you the basics of the game, but it also has an advanced section complete with trick shots. While it would have been nice to have a brief controller tutorial in there, a quick read of the manual and an hour or so in the practice mode will have you sinking balls like Bobby Brady himself.
The game's graphics are good enough, though the overall frame rate just doesn't seem to be smooth enough, occasionally resulting in balls that look as if they're skipping across the table. Also, the pulled-back camera angles used when the computer players shoot is nice in theory, but the table becomes a little too muddy to make out what's going on. Thankfully, you can switch to an overhead view after the shot takes place and watch the action from there, but unfortunately, you can't ditch all the environmental graphics and lock the game into this overhead mode. The sound effects are nice and realistic, but the music is catchy in that annoying sort of way. You'll find yourself tapping your toe to the upbeat tracks, only to realize that you utterly despise the music that is now trapped in your head.
Overall, Ultimate 8 Ball is a nice, solid pool simulation. It does have a few extras, though it would have been nice to see the hustle mode extended into a full-on plot-driven story like Backstreet Billiards. If you've already purchased a pool simulation within the last year, you'll probably only need to rent this one and give it a whirl for a day or two. But if you're looking to make a purchase, Ultimate 8 Ball is definitely in the running with those other pool sims.