Anytime Pool is the game that finally got me to stop playing Championship Pool for the original Game Boy. To many the idea of playing such an old game may sound silly, but that Game Boy game is so feature rich that I never found a sufficiently compelling upgrade.
With Anytime Pool, Electronic Arts has released the most engaging portable pool game that I have picked up in years. Being a person that usually has access to a pool table, the concept of having pool “anytime” is not so thrilling. Anytime pool manages to keep me entertained even when I am sitting not twenty feet away from a proper pool table.
This is not to say that the game is more thrilling than actual pool, but the degree of control the player has is empowering and transcends my real life abilities at the pool table. Control is something that can go terribly wrong on the iPhone and poor control is often the downfall of many promising games. I cannot think of one single complaint for the way that the user interacts with Anytime Pool, every challenge in the game stems solely from the rule set and AI/human opponent. The interface is simple while still granting the player the ability to control every minutia of how the cue ball (that white ball you poke with the stick) is hit. Surprisingly, the game will even account for whether or not the edge of the table or another ball is blocking the player from hitting a certain part of the cue ball. I cannot emphasize enough how well this game controls, and the effort that was put in to the control scheme is clearly evident and duly appreciated.
Excellent controls do not mean much if the game is crap, and fortunately Anytime Pool is proficient in more than one category of design. The game offers a host of different modes, both single and multi player. In total, players can choose from three different rule sets for the game: UK 8 ball, USA 8 ball and USA 9 ball. Each mode plays just as one might expect, and can be played against the AI, in “pass the iPhone” two player mode, or even online Multiplayer that is integrated with Facebook.
While I was not able to play online, I did have the opportunity to test out the hotseat mode and found it to be structurally the same as playing against the computer. Despite the fact that multiplayer won’t exactly knock your socks off, it is competent and entertaining just so long as you have something else to do while it is not your turn. When I played the multiplayer I was simultaneously playing a real life game of pool and simply taking my “Anytime Pool” turn when my opponent was up. I began to feel that pool was becoming an odd obsession and had to turn it off, but I can imagine the multiplayer being more fun to pass around while just having a conversation or while sitting in class.
Truth be told, portable pool games can get boring fast. As previously stated Anytime Pool is best played when something else is going on. Whether you are watching television, or enduring a family dinner, I find Anytime Pool does best in situations where one’s full attention is not constantly required. In no way is the onset of boredom a fault of the game itself, but simply a flaw prevalent in many pool games (at least, I tend to start wishing I was simply playing pool in real life). Not disregarding these sentiments, Anytime Pool is one of those games that you can constantly pull out and half-heartedly play while also focusing on another event. Frankly, I love that about the game. I am happy to have a portable game that will let me simultaneously watch Star Trek or engage in a normal conversation without the never ending interruption of, “hold on, I have to concentrate on this part.” By itself, the game can get boring but against the backdrop of other occurrences it is the perfect little distraction for those of us that need something extra to do.
If you like pool and have some modicum of self-respect go buy this game, the price is irrelevant (it is five dollars).
The game has a variety of pleasant locations to play at, the menus are slick and in general the graphics are top-notch. Yet it is difficult to ignore the “jaggies” on most of the edges. When a ball goes into a pocket it just simply disappears once a certain threshold is crossed, I would like to see this fixed even though it is a small issue. On another note, the character design is…. interesting.
I enjoy listening to a podcast while playing Anytime Pool, and thankfully the game allows one to listen to their own audio. The background chatter is a great touch, and gives atmosphere to the game if you have not chosen to listen to something else.
Anytime Pool controls flawlessly, a commendable effort that should be recognized.
Single player users can enjoy the World Tour and Challenge modes, those with a friend nearby can play hotseat multiplayer, and still others who maintain friendships over the internet can play multiplayer with facebook integration. Anytime Pool is not good for prolonged and concentrated play sessions, but thrives in quicker time intervals of play or while being played as a distraction.
Superb controls make this a must-have for mobile pool fans.