Pool Purgatory will keep you playing pool until your sins are forgiven or your fingers fall off. Whichever comes first.
Pool Paradise is at heart an excellent pool game dressed in black socks and sandals. Taking place on a remote island, you are challenged to gamble, gamble, gamble until you can gamble no more. Basically think of yourself as Sisyphus, but instead of pushing a boulder around, you just play pool.
At the beginning of the game, you find yourself penniless on a lush tropical island. Presumably, your cruise ship sunk and you washed ashore, traveler’s checks in tatters. Fortunately for you, this island is full of degenerate gamblers who have shunned civilization in order to play pool forever. Before you can play, you’ll need to borrow some money from the local loan shark who is, in fact, a shark…and he’s wearing a hat. After being fronted a couple hundred you can enter the pool lounge and choose your game.
The characters are certainly an odd assortment and each offers you a specific game for a set amount of money. All of the basic games of pool are covered including 8-ball, 9-ball, 14-1 continuous, etc. Once you choose a game to your liking and fund level, you’ll play against the computer until someone loses and pays up. In addition to the initial wager, you can also make the occasional proposition bet on a single shot. When one of these shots appears, you can challenge your opponent to make the shot (or vice versa) for some extra money.
The pool engine itself is fantastic, and once you get used to sighting your shots you’ll be playing like a pro in no time. After placing your cue appropriately, you hold down the A button and stroke with the analog stick. It takes some time to become accustomed to the power, but the system works perfectly. You can change the camera to one of several preset angles in order to get the best line for your shot, but unfortunately you can’t “walk” all the way around the table. At first, you’ll find yourself missing shots that you could easily make in real life which can be frustrating, but eventually you’ll get your eyes, and the rest is cake. You can control the spin by moving the black dot on the cue ball to the proper position and the game makes it easy to call your shots if necessary. In short, the pool engine is flawless. It’s a good thing too, since the rest of the elements are so ridiculous.
The character design, if it can be called such since you never see more than an ID picture, borders on insulting. With names like O.J. Stumpstem and William Grates you can’t help but think you’ve been transported to a parallel universe where all humor has been replaced with generic, uncreative drivel. When actually playing pool, you can only see your opponent’s hands floating around as if by magic. Once you get used to this odd ballet, you’ll notice that you can’t skip these animations as the computer takes its sweet time to set up and take each shot. When you start playing some of the tougher competitors who can sink multiple balls, you’ll find yourself taking a lot of bathroom breaks. With nothing more stunning than a couple of camera pans, you’d think that the developers could throw in a couple decent textures and some good looking water. Granted, this is supposed to be a game about pool, but if you’re going to tack on a silly theme, you should make it worthwhile.
Fortunately, you have some things to spend your hard-won money on. You can buy different baizes, an assortment of oddly shaped tables, and a number of mini-games such as darts and skeeball. These extras go a long way to break up the monotony of unending pool, and you’ll really appreciate the extra tables when playing against your friends. The multiplayer is very straightforward, making for a great game of pool, and even has the benefit of removing those unwanted, ghostly hand animations.
Despite the oddities, the lackluster graphics, and the moronic character design, Pool Paradise is simply a great pool game that doesn’t disappoint.