Wednesday, October 25, 2006



As I've mentioned in the past, I'm loathe to try and review an entire collection of games at once. So instead of trying to write a comprehensive review of 42 All Time Classics (Clubhouse Games as the Americans call it), I'm just going to focus on the one game in the collection that you will ever, ever need: Billiards.

Pocket Pool

Billiards on the Nintendo DS is just as pure and simple as you'd expect it to be. Instead of abstracting the act of aiming and striking a cue ball with angular selection followed by some sort of power meter action, Billiards is controlled using nothing but the touch screen. Instead of a cue stick, the game puts a little "firing arrow" on the screen. You touch it to take control of it and drag it to any side of the ball. A guideline helps you to line up the balls before you pull the arrow back and give it a good hard slide into the cue ball. Standard 9-ball rules are in effect -- first to pocket the 9 ball wins, but it has to be sunk with a legal shot.

I find it very interesting that, to line up a shot, I'll turn my DS around in my hands until I find the best angle to strike from, much like a real billiards player will walk around the table. I've even gone so far as to consider holding my stylus like a real cue stick. That whole concept just tickles me -- I love it when video games give you a chance to mimic real-world interactions as you play them.

Now, to be fair, this isn't the most realistic Billiards game in the whole world. The table has been kept small to fit the entire playfield on one screen, and the balls have been enlarged to make them easier to play with. The scale of the game is completely out of whack. In fact, the side pockets have been removed from the table because... well, practically half the table would be pockets if they'd been left in. And the physics of the game are just plain off. The balls just don't move or sound like real billiards balls as they clatter around the screen.

In spite of this, the game is completely playable and monstrously addictive. If you know someone else with a DS, you can play together with a single game card. And of course you can play against a CPU with a skill level of your choice. But if you have access to a wireless connection, the only way to play this game is over WiFi Connection.

Friendly Competition

Billiards is probably the quintessential online DS game. You don't need quick wits or a mastery of an unfair gameplay exploit in order to do well at Billiards. It's just a simple game of physics that anyone can pick up and play. And thanks to the wonky scale of the game, you don't have to be especially good at it to win. Not to say that a mastery of the game won't help you to clean house, but even an imbecile like me will sink the 9 ball completely on accident often enough to keep their spirits afloat.

The nicest part of the game is how pleasant chatting is. There's an option to keep the chat window open on the top screen, and you get to watch in real time as another human being shares in your triumphs and commiserates over your defeats. Sure, it probably helps that the default chat messages are all polite, inspiring selections like "Nice!" or "Too bad..." rather than "HA HA YOU SUCK" or "LEARN TO PLAY, NOOB". It's surprising how much it adds to the experience when you have a running dialogue going -- matches typically open with both sides wishing each other luck, then exchanging cries of "Nice!" or "Whoa!" or "Lucky!" as the game progresses. And because of the turn-based nature of the game, you actually have time to spin out a one-liner without feeling like you're holding things up.

When I got Super Monkey Ball on the Gamecube, the vast majority of my time was spent on Monkey Billiards. I guess it's just nice to finally have that experience in a portable game. My WFC matches stretch on for hours, meeting opponent after opponent for pleasant chatter and unpredictable matches. Of course, for those of you who are loathe to purchase an entire $30 cartridge just to play one parlor game, there's 41 other games to choose from on the cartridge, complete with piles and piles of those tacked-on crap features that everyone salivates over. And most of the games are pretty good -- I'll stop for the occasional game of Balance or Solitaire or Escape. But I know the real reason I bought this game.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?