Pool Hall Pro Review
Platforms: Wii and PC
Reviewed on Wii
"Rise to stardom as you take on the Pool Halls' toughest opponents. Select and play a vast collection of different styles of Pool, Snooker and Billiards! Battle your way through tournaments set in exotic locations."
If Pool Hall Pro had focused solely on its simulation of Pool, Billiards and Snooker games, it would have made an excellent downloadable WiiWare title. But as a $30 retail release, Pool Hall Pro's flaws are too glaring to make it an easy recommendation.
When I think about Pool Hall Pro as a stripped-down, bare-bones, physics-based pool simulation, I enjoy the game. The tables, from standard 8-Ball to full-size Snooker can be viewed from overhead or cue-ball perspectives, and I had an incredible level of control over the cue. I could aim, determine the elevation and angle of the cue with the Wii Remote, and then pull the Wii Remote back and forward to strike the ball. I could even make the ball leap off the table to perform trick shots, when my skills were up to the task.
Unfortunately, Pool Hall Pro tries to do a lot more than just simulate the table and balls, and does so crudely. Tutorials, a clearer interface and better environments easily could have justified Pool Hall Pro's existence at retail. The game boasts fully customizable characters, but the truly dismal character models looked like they were improperly downscaled from a PC to the Wii's lower resolution, and all of the options result in a polygonal caricature of an Eastern European thug from a B-movie. I've played mobile pool games with more stylish characters.
In the same way, the environments were dull, flat and uninspired. The game featured long load times, and if those load times were so that the game could create the 3D players and environments that surround the table, it's not worth it. If you can get past the fact that the game forces a close up of each player before their turn in dismally rendered halls, and there's some fun play available.
Pool Hall Pro supports nearly every variety of pool and snooker that you might want to play, and allows players to compete in tournaments or just play a single game against opponents with skill levels that range from dismal to inhumanly proficient. While the tournaments followed proper form, I find that many rounds of pool in a row a bit interminable, so it would have been nice if it were easier to save progress in the middle of a tournament (though it's perfect for the hardcore fan). I also enjoyed that Snooker was available, but most U.S. gamers would appreciate if the rules could be called up mid-game without having to refer to the minimal explanation in the game manual.
Simply put, the basic billiards action of Pool Hall Pro is fine. But so many sports games have taken character, crib and environmental customization to superlative levels that the dismal attempt at pool hall trappings in Pool Hall Pro substantially detract from the passable pool the game offers.