I have always been a fan of the game Pool. In all of its varieties and permutations, there is something about practicing geometry in a bar with a beer in one hand and a pool cue in the other that always appealed to me. Of course, in that environment, the later the game went on, the worse my geometry got…but that is a story for another post. I have always felt that the Windows Mobile platform would be ideally suited for a pool game, but finding one was another story. Then, several months ago, Brandon, my fellow JAMM writer, sent me an email about a free Beta for a game called Pocket Pool. Well, the name has since been changed to Pool Rebel, but what I found was one of the best computer pool games I have ever played.
Installation and Registration: To install Pool Rebel, simply download the appropriate file (there are several different files based upon which operating system you are using) to your desktop and load it onto your device via Activesync. Before you register, you will be limited to 90 second games. You can, however, play as many 90 second games as you like. Once you register, you will be able to access all of the features of the game.
Overview and Gameplay: I am not going to get into a detailed description of the game of pool here. It is a common game which is found in many bars and basements across the world. For those of you who are not as familiar with it, the game is fairly simple to understand, but can be extremely complicated to master.
The game is played on a rectangular table with six pockets. One at each of the four corners and one in the middle of each long side. There are a variety of numbered and or colored balls (depending upon the variation, the balls may be numbered or colored only.) Additionally, different variations will use different numbers of balls.
Use your stick to strike the cue ball and propel it into one of the balls, with the object of dropping that ball into the pocket. Again, depending upon the variation you play, there may be different rules governing the order the balls must fall or which pocket you can drop them in.
To shoot, simply aim your shot by moving the stick around the table. Use the slider to set the power of your shot, and hit shoot to "let ‘er rip". On a Pocket PC, you can use the stylus and tough screen. On a Smartphone, you can do this with the D-Pad.
Graphics: The graphics in Pool Rebel were exceptionally well drawn. I was impressed by the level of detail and customization which went into the table. You can select from a dozen different cloth colors on which to play.
Likewise, before the game begins, you can select an avatar to represent you in the game. This avatar will be displayed anytime you are shooting. Choose from one of the dozens of preloaded avatars, or you can create your own by loading in a picture from your device.
My only disappointment when I tested this game on my Axim was that the graphics were in QVGA not VGA. Of course, with the prevalence of QVGA devices these days, this should come as no surprise. Nonetheless, I noticed numerous occasions in which I had trouble telling whether a ball was striped or solid, or telling a red from an orange ball. This was extremely frustrating until I found that simply pressing that action button will superimpose the ball number over each ball, allowing you to easily identify the next ball to strike. This was a simple, and well appreciated solution to a problem which otherwise threatened to ruin the game for me.
Audio: There is no music in Pool Rebel, and to be honest, I found that I did not miss it at all. The only audio is the extremely realistic pool sounds: the balls clacking together and dropping into the pocket, the stick striking the cue ball, the crowd cheering a great shoot and lamenting a poor one. The audio in this game was subtle and appropriate.
Opponent: When you set up a new game, you can choose to play against a computer opponent or another person. If you choose to play against a computer opponent then you can assign a difficulty level from one to five stars. One star is the easiest opponent, while five stars is the most difficult. I found, however, that there was not enough variation between the different levels of difficulty. One star was not particularly easy, while five was not particularly difficult. It was like my son’s soccer games. You assign each player a position, but they all end up bunching together in the middle of the field. Although the stars were each assigned a difficulty level, they all seemed to bunch together in the middle of the difficulty field. I would really like to see a greater variance between the difficulty levels in future versions of the game.
In addition to playing against the computer, you can also play head-to-head against another live opponent. While I appreciated this option, it would be nice if you could connect two devices together via Bluetooth, or even connect to other players around the world via the Internet.
Game Types: As I mentioned, there are quite a few variations of pool, and Pool Rebel does a great job of covering them. There are five different games included in this package:
- 8 Ball. This is what most people would consider to be standard pool. There are seven solid balls and seven striped balls, plus the eight ball. You must sink all seven of your balls and then the eight ball to win.
- 8 Ball (UK). This is similar to 8 Ball. The main variation is that there are no numbered balls. Seven balls are yellow and seven are red.
- 9 Ball. This is played only with the balls numbered 1-9. On each shot, you must hit the lowest numbered ball first. Whomever sinks the 9 Ball wins.
- One Pocket. In this game, each player selects one pocket. All of your balls must be shot into that one pocket. Balls shot into any other pocket will not count.
- 14.1 Continuous. This is a game played with all 15 balls. The first 14 balls are sunk in any order with players scoring a point for each correctly called shot. When there is only one ball remaining, the 14 balls are racked on the table and the player attempts to shoot the 15th ball into a pocket while also disturbing the 14 racked balls. Play continues until one player reaches the predetermined point total (usually 150).
I was really impressed with the variations of each game. It is clear that the developers were well versed in the rules of each game, because many lesser known fouls and rules are included. Additionally, the physics in this game are superb. Pool is a game of geometry and physics, and Pool Rebel is an excellent example of that. Each shot is carefully calculated to provide realistic bounces and angles throughout the game. This made the game seem much less like a video game and more like the real thing.
In each game, when you commit a foul or when any other move requiring an explanation occurs, the referee will appear to explain what happened. If you need further explanation of any of the games, there is a thorough description of each game which can be accessed from the menu.
Once you have selected which game you want to play, you must also decide whether to play a single quick game, or a series. In quick game, the game will automatically begin with the same settings you used on the last game. A series will be a best of series. You can determine the maximum number of games up to 21. So, in a best of 5 series, for example, you would play until one player wins three games. When this occurs, you can decide whether to extend the series or end the game.
One feature I did miss here was the ability to maintain your statistics. I would have liked to know how I was doing at each game. How many games I had won and lost, things like that which would allow me to track my progress. This is a small feature which will hopefully be included in a future version.
Finally, in each game, you can select the degree to which you want to use the aim assist feature. Aim assist will show you the path the cue ball will take, and which balls it will strike. You can turn it off, or step it up through several levels to full aim assist, where the entire path of the cue ball will be shown, including the direction of the ball you are hitting.
Saving the Game: Frequent readers know that saving is one of the most important options to me. If a great game cannot be quickly saved, then I will not play it for long. Pool Rebel offers a fantastic save option. Select save from the menu at any time in the game your game will be frozen in time, ready to be loaded from and continued from the instant you saved it. I call this the suspended animation feature, and it is fantastic. Even better, you can save as many games as you want, meaning you could have dozens of games going on all at the same time.
Conclusion: I love playing pool. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to carry around a pool table in my pocket. Pool Rebel is the perfect solution. Not only does it provide a pool table, stick and balls, it eve provides a built-in opponent. I was impressed by the breadth and variety of games, as well as the detailed rules for each. While the graphics were exceptional, I do wish the balls had been slightly easier to distinguish. Overall, however, this was the next best thing to visiting a pool hall, and it offered the added benefit of eliminating the smoky atmosphere and loud kids on the table next to you. So, chalk up your stick and get ready to play some 8 Ball…or 8 Ball UK…9 Ball…14.1 Continuous…or One Hole. Regardless of which game you select, you will quickly find this simple and addictive game will become one of the most played games on your device.
Name: Pool Rebel
Also Available: WM5, WM6, Smartphone
Developer: CompuMaster, Ltd.
Available From: Pool Rebel Website