If billiards and miniature golf conceived a child on the moon, the newborn would be Lunar Pool, a goofy and obscure Nintendo Entertainment System game now available for download from the Wii Virtual Console service. However, don't let its low profile and bland appearance fool you. Despite a smattering of issues, Lunar Pool is novel enough to take the time to explore.
The only real hints that Lunar Pool is lunar at all are the game's title and the small craters marking the area around the pool table. There's no setup or exposition. In fact, the game is barebones in almost every aspect: The pool balls are the only thing coloring the flat visuals, and the music is a grating 10-second jingle that repeats itself into eternity. Normal billiards rules do not apply. For example, there's no simulated pool cue, so you've got no options for spin. Furthermore, there are no solids or stripes, and the only way to scratch is by knocking the cue ball into a pocket.
However, Lunar Pool makes up for its no-frills approach by throwing 60 different tables your way. Though a few of them are just repeated designs with different starting racks, they are all available from the get-go and worth exploring at least once. Nearly all of the table designs are crazy in some way, including a square table with eight pockets in the center; a table shaped like the letter "Z"; and a table with one pocket at the end of a curved path. You can play with one or two players, and 255 different levels of friction. (For a fun time, ratchet the friction down to zero and let 'er rip.) Consequently, Lunar Pool is less a night at a billiards lounge and more an afternoon at Putt-Putt Minigolf. Each table challenges your grasp of geometry, so if you're the patient type, you'll remain intrigued.
You'll certainly need that patience to get past some of the game's more plodding moments. Control of your aiming reticle is separated into both angle and distance, which adds a cumbersome layer of mechanics. A simple line extending from the cue ball would have served as a clearer, more maneuverable visual aid. Some of the table designs will likely put you in near-impossible situations if you're careless, such as when your cue ball gets trapped behind a wall and you have to waste weak shots to maneuver it back into play. These situations are draining and will often drive you to go play something else.
Trying to blow through Lunar Pool in a marathon sitting may only exacerbate these issues. However, it's basically entertaining and worth the effort when taken in 20-minute chunks. Knocking in lucky combo shots when you're on a roll is fun and will encourage you to keep exploring each of the 60 tables. At 500 Wii points, Lunar Pool offers decent value for anyone looking for simple pool action, something good enough to add to your "obscure games" collection, or both.