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'Pool Hustler' racks up the fun

The electronic pool table can be as challenging as the real thing   
By CNN Interactive Associate Editor John Robinson

October 21, 1998
Web posted at: 12:00 PM EDT

If you have always dreamed of having a pool table in your home but are short on cash or space, you might want to give "Pool Hustler" for Sony Playstation a shot.

Activision's pool simulation is easy to get the hang of, but that doesn't mean it will make you a good player. If you're bad at real-world pool, you'll probably be just as bad at this version.

"Pool Hustler" offers five game modes to choose from, including a Lesson mode that gives a little background information about the game of pool along with demonstrations. Other game modes include one-player, two-player, practice and trick shot. Game rules available are the traditional 8- and 9-ball games, or can try your hand at 14-1 or Rotation.

The one-player mode, called Story mode, places you in a computerized pool hall where you can attempt to beat one of the local hustlers. Winning against these guys will earn you some cash and the right to play better hustlers on a quest to become the ultimate pool master. Meanwhile, story-mode hustlers pop up at the bottom of the screen and taunt you with captions like "You are truly a gutless wonder, Dude!" Digitized voices could have added a lot to this mode of play.

Two-player mode is great provided you have someone to play with who is at your skill level. The only complaint is that you don't have the option to place bets in the two-player mode.

Zoom in for a closer look at the next shot   

The controls are simple and easy to learn because there is no pressure to push a button until you are ready. You have the option of a two-dimensional overhead view or a three-dimensional view when picking a shot. The table can be rotated in just about any direction and you can zoom in so close that the balls become actual size. Changing the strike point and the angle of the cue allow for advanced techniques to be applied, like English, Masse and jumping.

The graphics in "Pool Hustler" are well done, with realistic looking tables and balls. The subtle and accurate lighting effects can help you out when you're lining up that nasty bank shot.

Sound effects are good, but the music is terrible. The repetitive songs sound as if they were produced using a cheap electronic keyboard. Luckily, the option menu allows you to change the song or turn the music off completely.

Aside from that, "Pool Hustler" is a stunning simulation that accurately captures the physics of playing pool. The balls move just as you would expect them to in the real world unless, of course, you miss a shot. Then you can blame your miscalculation on the stupid computer.

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