Underground Pool Review

Underground Pool is a squalid representation of the game of billiards.

It's unlikely that anyone would go into a budget- priced handheld pool game and expect the moon from it, but it wouldn't be hard to expect more than what a ramshackle piece of junk like Underground Pool offers up. Shoddy ball physics, useless artificial intelligence, clumsy touch-screen controls, ugly graphics, shrill audio, and a severe lack of modes are just the highlights of what's wrong with this game.

Underground Pool: Because people were tired of all those sellout corporate pool games, right? Right...? Hello?
Underground Pool: Because people were tired of all those sellout corporate pool games, right? Right...? Hello?

Underground Pool offers single game, challenge mode, and multiplayer options. The challenge mode is the closest the game gets to a career mode, but it's really just a scattered collection of tournaments that unlock, of all things, more tournaments. Winning tournaments nets you cash, but the cash doesn't do anything for you, except let you buy into more tournaments down the road. There are no bonus items or new pool gear to purchase--not even new games to unlock. In fact, Underground Pool offers only two variations of the game of pool: 8-ball and 9-ball. There isn't even an option to futz with the rules of each game.

Considering how utterly inept the two included pool variations are, maybe it's for the best that the developers didn't try to shoot for higher sky and add more. For one thing, you might as well just ignore most of the game's touch-screen functions. The game lets you rotate the pool cue around the table with the stylus, but it's generally easier and less flustering to do it with the D pad. Tapping on the cue when it's positioned at the top or bottom of the screen often results in no response whatsoever. The one thing the touch screen is useful for is setting power for your shot, but even this mechanic is flawed because the game doesn't use an intuitive power meter. It's just a stick that you move up and down to determine how far back the pool cue is from the cue ball. While that might seem easy enough, there are times in this game when seemingly small amounts of power send balls flying every which way, so any measure of predictability is absent here. It probably has at least something to do with the game's oddball physics. There's a bit of weightiness to the balls on the table, but they seem too light overall, bouncing much more wildly than real pool balls do.

Another huge flaw is that the camera system makes lining up proper shots nearly impossible. You can float between a few different camera angles, but only one of them lets you properly line up with a ball on the table, and even then, it's tough to gauge whether the angles you're taking are beneficial or not. Again, part of the issue is the weird physics model, but it's tough to make much headway with these awful camera angles, especially when the on-the-table angle can't deal with your cue ball being near the edge of the table and obscures your view of practically everything.

That the AI opponents are basically idiots does ease some of the challenge presented by the lame camera and broken controls. These invisible dolts repeatedly screw up seemingly easy shots. Even when all they have to do is hit the side of a slightly blocked ball to avoid a foul, they still can't pull it together. The Black Widow these players are not.

There are exactly a million different ways to play the game of pool that are better than this one. We know. We did the math.
There are exactly a million different ways to play the game of pool that are better than this one. We know. We did the math.

On top of everything else, Underground Pool looks and sounds awful, which is sad considering that the graphics are probably the least offensive part of the game. The game does include several different tables and club backgrounds, but none of them are pleasant to look at. The tables look kind of grainy and blurry, and you can barely see the club backgrounds, save for quick looks now and again. The audio is probably the game's worst feature. The ball-clacking noises sound weirdly tinny and compressed, and the soundtrack consists of some of the most gratingly terrible MIDI you can imagine. It's not even music. It's a 5-year-old with hooks for hands slamming wildly on random keys on a MIDI keyboard. Horrific stuff.

Whether or not you're a pool enthusiast, Underground Pool is not the game for you. The single-player game is pointless and severely not fun to play, the multiplayer game isn't any better (and requires multiple carts--there's no download play), and the whole game is presented poorly. Go plop down $20 at a local pool hall, and leave this hunk of junk on the shelf.

The Good
8-ball and 9-ball variations of pool are featured
The Bad
Touch-screen controls are awful
Lack of decent camera angles makes lining up tough shots just about impossible
Computer opponents are severely brain damaged
Ugly graphics and uglier audio
Apart from multiplayer, there's almost nothing worth doing in this game
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Underground Pool More Info

  • First Released Jan 26, 2007
    • DS
    Hardcore Pool features 8 and 9-ball gameplay, 8 unique pool halls and supports 4 player multiplayer.
    Average Rating40 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    FrontLine Studios
    Published by:
    UFO Interactive
    Sports, Billiards
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Alcohol Reference