A game with shiny balls.
Sports games that I enjoy playing are pretty few and far between, unless they involve some sort of racing with a motorised vehicle, or the odd bit of Ice Hockey and Golf. But for some strange reason I found myself drawn towards Hustle Kings, “a game with shiny balls” as the developers themselves put it. For those who are not aware, it is a Pool game. No, not the swimming kind but the kind you find more commonly within a bar or a pool hall if you will. In real life my pool skills are lacklustre to say the least, but it has to be said that I have enjoyed various Pool and Snooker video games over various consoles and computers through the years. With this in mind, and of course the fact that PSN+ subscribers are being offered a nice discount on the game throughout the month, I decided I would pick it up and give it a go.
Being in the UK, describing what is involved in the playing of the game you think would be as simple as saying you try to pot a red or yellow ball in one of the tables six pockets before then trying to pot the remaining balls of the same colour followed by the black ball, all the while attempting to stop your opponent from doing likewise. These are the basic rules of United Kingdoms version of the game. However there is a lot more to the game than this as any version of pool you can imagine, and a few that you can’t, are more than likely included within the game, such as UK 8 Ball as I mentioned, US 8 Ball and 9 Ball Pool amongst others. Along with actual one on one games of Pool, there are also skill challenges which see you as the player attempting trick shots, potting a certain number of balls within a time limit or trying to clear all balls on the table without missing a single shot or playing a foul shot.
The game comes with a fairly lengthy career mode which has the player progressing from one match to the other playing one of the many forms of pool. These games, along with the skill tests, become progressively trickier to beat as you move through your career. Slotted in between the matches are various single player challenges such as a trick shot, some of which later on in your career are are extremely tricky indeed. If it is not a trick shot then it is a skill test of some kind, such as having you pot a certain number of balls within a time limit. Along with the single player career mode there is the hugely enjoyable online mode where you can find random matches against other players or even play against your friends. Online matches can be set up in any way you see fit, meaning you can choose which version of the game you want to play, whether or not you have a shot clock or whether or not you you have the shot aids turned on. This means the games can be as competitive or as leisurely as you like. Both playing the career mode and online mode has you earning in game money by making pots, winning matches or generally pulling of impressive shots. You can even make bets with your opponent, hence the name of the game Hustle Kings. The money that you make in the game is not only a show of how good an opponent you are, but it can also be used within the in game store where you can buy numerous items from different chalks, some of which can improve accuracy and or ball control, to new avatars, balls and cues.
There are two control systems, three if you count the recently released PlayStation Move although I can not speak for that as I do not yet own the peripheral. However the other two methods both work equally as well and it comes down to a personal preference. The lining up of your shots is simple enough as at first you have an aiming line which shows the route your balls will take on taking the shot, setting any spin you wish to use and then setting your power. Up until that point both methods are identical, but the actual taking of your shot is where the methods differ. You can either use the analogue stick, pulling it back and then pushing it forward in one smooth movement, with the straighter your back and forward movement determining how accurate your shot is. The second method is the one I prefer however and it resembles the method more commonly found in a golf game, in that you must stop a spinning icon at the twelve o’clock point around the cue ball in the bottom left of the screen. The closer you are to the marked spot the more accurate you are. The two methods work equally as well and it really does come down to which one you feel more comfortable using.
On the presentation front it is pretty hard to fault the game especially when it comes to its looks. It has to be said that the locations of the pool tables and the tables themselves are beautifully recreated within the game. The only downside is that the pool halls and bars are devoid of any human life, giving them a feeling of emptiness. Thankfully that is not what the game is about and it concentrates more on the game itself. Using the games tag line, those are definitely some shiny balls. The graphics are so sharp in fact that you can at times actually see the texture in the fabric covering the tables. The fact that game runs in full 1080p High Definition goes a long way to explaining how the game looks so jaw droppingly amazing. The one downside to the game, which to be honest is not really that bad, is the official soundtrack. The music within the game is such an eclectic mix that you may at times find yourself asking what exactly you are listening to. The feature that saves this from being a negative mark against the game is that the player can use their own music as a soundtrack rather than using the games music, turning that con into a pro for the game.
Hustle Kings is probably the best game featuring the sport in question on the PlayStation, and any other console or computer that I have played. If it’s a pool game, or even snooker if you grab the downloadable content, that you are after then Hustle Kings is without a doubt the game for you. It offers up a great challenge, with later matches in career mode proving pretty tough. Even if you breeze through those, the online mode is sure to be more of a challenge playing against other players. But the game also looks stunning and plays amazingly well, making it a game that is definitely worth checking out.