3D Pool Pro
As one would expect, 3D Pool Pro is a fully fledged 8-ball and 9-ball pool simulator.
The controls work very well. The mouse by default rotates and pans the camera around the fully 3D pool table. When cueing up, holding the right mouse button allows you to rotate or raise the cue to aim, and the middle button adjusts the tip position. To shoot, hold down the left button and you can slide the cue forwards or backwards by moving the mouse up or down.
An aiming indicator can be switched between two modes or turned off. In one mode the reflected angle is shown with an arrow, making pots very easy, and in the other mode the impact destination of the cue ball is shown.
The graphics are adequate but not outstanding. Players can choose between one of several different playing arenas and the backgrounds for the bar or the arcades for example are interesting but not finished with much detail. Likewise, the textures applied to the table and cue are rather simple looking, the 'dirt' on the bar table looks more like giant shadows. The icons are text based. There aren't many special effects in the game as a whole, the only notable one being a streaking slow-mo when you jump the cue ball.
The lighting on the table and surroundings works well, but the balls look a little too dark and the normally bright colours of the pool balls are lost. The dark balls make the stripes hard to distinguish, and the game looks less attractive than it should. The 9-ball game is also slightly more difficult as a result. An option to play 8-ball with a yellow/red ball set might have been nice.
The sound is all good, which might be surprising considering pool is not a noisy game. The thorough tutorial is spoken, and includes several trick shots to form a sort sub-game in itself. Different ambient sounds accompany each playing area, such as arcade machine bleeps and noises in the arcade room. Some intro music starts up the game but thankfully does not invade the playing arena. Needless to say, the ball clinks are there.
The feel of the game is just about perfect, better than any other pool game I've played. The mouse controlled cue action really gives the player a feel for the weight of the ball. It is possible, in fact easy, to make the cue ball leap into the air which is not something I've ever managed on a real pool table. Oddly, the computer player does this a lot but the leap-effect does not in any way detract from the gameplay. The middle mouse button adjusts the 'english', the placement of the cue tip to achieve top, back, left or right spin.
As far as game options are concerned there are enough here. You can play 8-ball or 9-ball, against a human or computer player of adjustable skill, in a single match or as part of a long playing career. Although predominantly mouse controlled, you can play entirely from keyboard which is useful for those people who rely on touchpad equipped laptops.
Some pool games allow you to set up a table for trick shots; 3D Pool Pro doesn't, but I don't know anyone who used that option anyway so that is not a serious blow.
To summarise, it looks and plays a lot like pool. The physics and game types are all there. The pool balls look a little too dark for my liking, and the interface can look a little amateurish and the 3-button plus wheel controls can be a little awkward, but those are all minor points. Reasonably priced, and with comprehensive instructions, 3D Pool Pro is a good pool game that does what a pool player would expect in a way that a computer gamer would appreciate. The version reviewed was v1.0, but v1.1 has been released within the last week. Updates include Internet/LAN play, so a good game just got better.
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