The offices of GamesRadar are almost exclusively populated with heterosexual men – which means it’s more common for Satan to declare a snow day than it is for us complain that a game has too much sex in it. That’s right up there with, “my paycheck gives me too much money” and “my favorite football team wins too many games”. However, that’s one of the big problems with the PSP billiards simulation Pocket Pool: it layers on the PG-13 porn-lite in an attempt to add to its appeal. Then it falls flat on its implants.
This is partially because the innuendo laced dialogue that comes along with it is groan-inducingly tacky. But it’s mostly because unlocking pictures and videos of underwear-clad babes posing in mid-epileptic-seizure-looking positions just isn’t that arousing – 95% of this can be seen every week on Desperate Housewives, and Eva Longoria’s hotter than most of these bims to boot.
Okay, so the “porn” is lame. How’s the rest of the game? Urgh. Let’s just say we know why they added the skin. There are 13 ways for balls-and-cues to throw down, including all the majors: straight pool, 8-ball, 9-ball, blackjack, full snooker, and so on. But they all share a few big problems.
Let’s start the list: there are three different settings for “ball speed” – apparently trying to model how worn in the table is – but none feel quite right, with balls often seeming to slow down abnormally quickly. The balls themselves often move suspiciously when hit too, though we’re not entirely sure if that’s the fault of the physics computing or the fact that the aiming – which uses the d-pad instead of the analog stick - is completely imprecise. Or possibly both.
If you’re playing ad-hoc with another human (by the way, there’s no “pass-the-PSP” multiplayer mode, which is completely insane), you’re both saddled by these handicaps and it evens out. A CPU-controlled opponent will rarely have similar problems though. Like a drunken college freshman trying to channel Minnesota Fats, they consistently pass up easy balls and instead attempt crazy trick shots that involve banking the target orb off the side rails four times. Granted, these stunts ram home into a side pocket with alarming frequency, but that’s a different complaint.
So is the fact that your controls are gimped. You know that analog stick you didn’t use to aim? Keep ignoring it. Instead, you hold the circle button to make a meter show up, then press the D-pad up or down to choose the power of your shot, then press to the right to execute it. Wait, what?
As you continue, you’ll find new annoyances. You can disrupt the opponent while they “think” about their shot – it’s a nice touch, but they “think” for several seconds before every shot, dragging the game to a crawl. The character portraits get in the way, and if you turn them off, your power meter goes away too. There’s an automatic save prompt that insists upon asking if you want to clear space on your card or rename your save file every single time you finish a match. Then it kicks you back out to the main menu and forces you to wade through the menus and reselect, then reload everything again. Unless, of course, you’ve wisely put the game down in search of something sexier or pool-ier.