There’s nothing quite like a real pool hall. That foul smell, a combination of body odour, cigarette smoke and beer stained carpets… mmm I wish I was there already.
Luckily there are a raft of pool games on the AppStore that virtually transport you there, and Namco’s Pool Pro Online 3 is easily one of the best, up there with Anytime Pool and Midnight Pool… (foul smells not included!)
There are two things a good pool game must do to be a success on any platform, controls and ball physics… and I’m happy to report that Pool Pro Online 3 does both very well. To me it’s perhaps the best physics of all that I have played, getting both the interaction between balls on the table and the ball roll just right. It’s impossible to emulate every type of table material but it feels good to me. The controls are also well implemented. It comes down to personal preference, but Namco offers a solid option that sits somewhere between power bar and virtual control (flicking or dragging). You set up your shot by dragging the screen which spins the 3D view and your cue to your desired position. Then when you are ready to take your shot, you simple pull back a graphical representation of the cue at the side of screen to set the power of the shot and let go. It’s very much like the controls of a virtual pinball game, but it works well. As well as straight shooting you can add spin for more advanced pool moves.
Graphically the game looks good too. The table and balls look and behave realistically. When playing or spectating your opponents turn, you can spin the table in 3D space it’s very smooth and allows you to get a great view of any shot. During your own shot you can also view a top down view of the table. This is great for beginners allowing a more precise view of where you shot will land. I would have liked to see the ability to disable that view for more pro matches, as it really is a cheat… but it’s not a huge deal as you can simply not use it.
By default the game is played in what looks to be a penthouse wine bar environment… it’s all a bit 80s in style, no doubt a favourite haunt of American Psycho. Suitable jazz plays in the background… nice! Thankfully you can opt for your own iPod music, or turned off (recommended). Namco have added some downloadable content which can be purchased. This offers purely cosmetic additions of new cues, tables and environments to play in. I particularly like the japanese style pagoda pool hall complete with koi pond graphic table material and matching cues.
There is a third thing and the game’s killer feature… and that, as the title suggests, is online play. You have three multiplayer options; online (wifi and cell), peer to peer (local play on two devices) and pass and play (same device). But online is the real draw for me, as there is nothing like whipping complete strangers and taking their virtual cash. That’s right, all games can be played for stakes, and although it’s virtual, it really brings out the competitive streak in anyone.
With any game that can both increase or ruin your online cred there is always a problem with cheaters. People who, once they realise they are on a losing streak will simply quit out of the app leaving you high and dry. In the original release of this game, this was a problem, however in the last day or so Namco have released an update that ensures you don’t lose your wager should someone quit out.
Generally though you should give all players the benefit of the doubt, and I have yet to play someone who hasn’t played through to the end of a match. In fact during writing this review I have been playing someone online and even exchanging a little banter via the in-game chat option. I won of course!
Online match-ups is pretty easy, as soon as you enter the online play you are presented with three online lobbies. Here anyone available will appear, and you simply tap on them and hit challenge to play. The three lobbies give you both 8 ball and 9 ball variants of pool, as well as the game of Snooker, a UK pub favourite.
Once in an online game, you take turns on your shots… there is a little timer for each player, so you can’t simply leave someone hanging… take too long then and your turn is forfeited. For the most part the games run pretty quick, with minimal lag (depending on connection quality), the only slowdown is purely down to how long you opponent takes.
Once the game ends your win or lose is added to the online leaderboards as well as to your profile, which acts like a mini Xbox live but for pool. It tracks your windfall, your online ranking, achievements and your friends list, as well as any pending friend requests.
Naturally the game also offers AI play for all three modes, but while it’s good for practice, and advised to do so before hitting online, it’s the online mode that makes this game standout.
Pool Pro Online 3 then is really for multiplayer junkies only. The game does have a solid single player experience, and it is advised you check it out for a bit of practice before hitting online, but without a career mode and other options, it falls short of other single player pool games on the AppStore. And so if online isn’t your thing then you may want to look elsewhere. In online though it can’t be matched, and if it’s that competitive streak that fuels you, then Pool Pro online 3 is the only pool game you’ll need.
Pool Pro Online is out now for $4.99 – Get it on