Pool Paradise Hands-On Impressions

We go a few rounds with Ignition's wacky new pool game.

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We recently played a few rounds of Pool Paradise, the forthcoming pool game from longtime pool game designer Archer Maclean and Ignition Entertainment. As great fans of the real game, we were generally pretty pleased with what we saw. From our initial impressions, it seems like Pool Paradise will offer discerning billiards fan just just about everything they could possibly hope for in a pool game.

The premise of Pool Paradise (Pool games need a premise?) is simple, if a bit silly. You've washed up penniless on a tropical resort island, and the only way you'll earn any money to make your way back to the mainland is to challenge a bunch of pool sharks to games for money. What a hard-knock life, eh? Anyway, the core of the competitive ladder in Pool Paradise has you choosing from a wide variety of opponents, each of whom favors very different rule sets (such as American eight ball, nine ball, 15 ball, and plenty of other variations you've never heard of). You'll accept the player's bet to jump into the match, and if you win, you'll have added that much more to your coffers. After this, you can then move on to challenge even wealthier opponents. Occasionally, a tournament will begin for a particular game type that you can opt to play for more cash.

The pool interface in Pool Paradise is pretty easy to figure out. You can view the table from multiple angles, and the default cue's-eye view is especially useful for lining up your shots. You'll see a particular ball bobbing over a pocket when you've got a possible shot lined up, and you can rotate the view around and switch angles to make sure you're not cutting it too sharply. You can also adjust your aim in subtle ways by putting backspin on the cue ball once you've lined up your shot. When you're ready to take your shot, you'll use the left analog stick (or the mouse on the PC) to control your cue. This means that you'll have to get a feel for the analog control to figure out exactly how hard you need to hit the ball in various situations.

There's a lot more to the gameplay in Pool Paradise than the main challenge ladder, although the extra content is locked when you begin the game. You'll be able to play on all kinds of wacky bonus tables. One table even has an L-shape, for instance, while another is triangular. The game has some other content available as well, such as a trick shot mode and a variety of minigames, like darts, a skeeball variation called skeepool, and an arcade game called Dropzone.

Graphically, there's not a lot to say about Pool Paradise, simply because...it's pool. There's only so much you can do with it. At least there's some stylish flair to the visuals, since the game is set on a tropical island. You'll play on tables with pink felt, and you'll see the beach in the background, for instance. Disturbingly, your opponents are represented by nothing more than disembodied hands. At any rate, the game does look pretty good for what it is.

Based on our initial playtime with Pool Paradise, fans who can't make it down to the local dive should be pretty satisfied playing this video game version instead. The core pool engine is pretty easy to pick up, though it will take you a while to master the angles so that you can pull off some of the game's tougher shots. There's more personality and variety here than you'd expect from a game that's based on something as simple as pool, and if you add to this all of Pool Paradise's extra content, it's an entry that will definitely set itself apart from other such titles when it ships for the GameCube and PC in late March.

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