Pool is the perennial social pub game and a source of pride, frustration and occasionally violence. What better subject for a computer game? This way you can practise your trick shots without worrying about blurring your skill with alcohol and coming home with your clothes smelling of smoke. There have been a few pool games released over the years. PoolShark from Gremlin is the latest, available for both PC and PlayStation, and it lets you play using the mouse or joypad to control cue direction and force, with all sorts of trick shots available to the skilled player.
PoolShark sets the scene with an opening sequence depicting a scantily-clad woman driving a large motorbike to a dingy bar, where she proceeds to play pool. Good start. Then you’re on your own, and there’s a wide range of options to get you started. Choose from fourteen different game styles, including 8 ball UK, straight ball, speed pool and killer. Play against a selection of animated characters, each with their own style and preferred ‘lair’, and each with a varied level of artificial intelligence that gives them strengths, weaknesses and specific skills. There are standard pool tables as well as some weird diamond- and L-shaped ones, and ten different playing rooms.
PoolShark can be played over virtually any kind of network with up to 16 players (which would be an interesting game), supports PowerVR 3D acceleration or plain old software rendering and has multiple camera angles to give you a good view of the action at all times. This is great, but what’s not so great is the intrusive game interface, which tends to get in the way rather than helping you with your shot. Also, the ‘full 3D maths/physics engine’, while accurate enough to allow the players to send the cue ball spinning off the table, is hungry for CPU cycles.