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Ah, Methinks its time the Coolster did another one of his reviews. And the subject? Only the coolest Cue ball game around,. Cool Pool. 'Cool Pool?' I hear you say. 'Never Heard of it!' It's a shame really because it's a darn fine pool Game. In fact it's so easy and fun to play you'll be potting 'em left right and centre in minutes, pulling off some spectacular long shots. Trouble is, it's so easy to play your opponent will be as well. The fun games are all brilliant, and the cool tables will take your breath away. 'How on Earth can I play pool on that table you'll ask? And getting a game online is a breeze. There's no web sites to log onto, the game automatically logs you into your ISP and launches a list of rooms you can join in to play. It's just like going through the menu of any game. It must be said though that it's not a simulation, and you can't play multi game matches like you can in virtually every other pool game.
So why is it called Cool pool, and why haven't I heard of it? Well the reason it's 'Cool pool' is twofold, Firstly because as well as standard 8 ball pool, there's some really cool variations featuring exploding balls, colour changing balls, supersonic speeding balls, and cash jumping out of pockets (admittedly it's in Cents not pence but you get the idea). Secondly, it's a really cool came in it's own right. It's so absurdly easy to pick up and play it's unbelievable. And if it's such a fantastic game why hasn't anyone heard of it? Well the simple fact of the matter is that Sierra who published the game didn't market it properly. In the states it was released as part of Sierra's 'Family Fun' range which included 'Train Town' and 'RC Racing'. Marketing what is an adult game towards parents and dustbin lids probably killed the game in America. In the UK it was issued as a totally different game, 'Maximum Cueball' with the addition of Snooker as well and aimed at an adult market. But with 'Virtual Pool' and 'Jimmy White's Cueball dominating the market (and later 'World Championship Snooker') The lack of decent promotion virtually killed off the game. As a result, Family Fun Cool Pool (to give it it's proper title) was released about a year ago on Sold Out's budget £5.00 label, but hasn't sold well, which is a shame as it's a little corker. The graphics are amazing considering how low spec a machine you need to play it. Honestly it will look as fantastic as, if not better than, any recent releases on you can play on the latest 3 Ghz + machines. Users of new machines can play this game with their mates without fear of them saying they're buying crappy games on the cheap (see screen shots).
Specs needed to play.
Pentium 90 (see screen shots and be amazed) 16 Mb Ram minimum, SVGA Graphics 256 colours Sound Blaster or compatible card, Mouse keyboard 60 MB hard drive space.
The menu's on Cool pool are great to look at. They're in a sort of retro 1950's style, but with a modern feel to them. Bright colours make the menus almost funky, but not in a modern clubby sort of way. The opening music and the sound effects on the menus give an almost whacky impression of the game, but depending on the game you choose, then may find this to be or not to be the case. The menu first presents you with the usual start game setup and options menus. In this case start game is 'Play Pool' which takes the player to another menu offering a choice of three MOP's (Mode of play) Classic Games, Cool Games-Classic Tables, and Cool Games-Cool Tables. Dependant upon which MOP you choose, the available games are listed in a second box (it's actually a funny rounded oblong shape). Clicking on a game selects it, but before you click the play plectrum (that's what the box is shaped like - a V shaped plectrum) you can view a video of how to play your chosen game. Then choosing play presents an animated menu. You can chose between easy medium and hard modes on this screen and on the next screen between Practice and 1-4 opponents. One glitch here (there's only two in the whole game) is that practice isn't practice, but playing against a computer opponent. There is no solo practise play at all.
Basic Billiards. This is where you get a point for each ball potted and the first to 8 points wins. However you must nominate your ball and any other ball potted is a foul.
8 Ball, This is the us version of 8 ball, and differs from UK rules in that fouls don't carry over, and after a foul you can move the cue anywhere on table. You must nominate a pocket for the black.
9 ball, Standard
Pictures of Cool Pool (PC)
US 9 ball in that there's only 9 balls used (racked in a diamond) and you must pocket the balls in order from 1-9, the winner being the one to pocket the 9 ball. It's possible to pot 1-8 and loose because you miss the 9. Also 3 fouls in a row and you're out! Of the game. Cutthroat, Unusually This is for three players. Player 1 is on 1-5, 2 is on 6-10, and 3 is on 11-15. Surprisingly, you must not hit your own balls at all. The winner is the last man standing, i.e. The last with balls on the table. Any balls you hit first must be an opponents ball or it's a foul.
Here the aim is to score the most points by sinking the highest numbered balls. However you must first hit the lowest numbered ball on the table, so plant shots and cannons are the order of the day. If you foul your opponent can choose, like in a quiz show, whether to play or pass. Lots of skill is required for this one if you want to rack up a high score, so keep practising.
In addition to the standard games, there's 5 'Cool' games. These Games can be played on a standard table, or a weird and wonderful cool table. If you choose a cool table you won't believe your eyes. Each of these games and tables is uniquely whacky and wonderful, adding a new twist to a simple game of hitting balls into holes with sticks. The best way to explain is to describe the games, but be warned, they're so whacky you might have trouble understanding them. Fortunately as with all types of pool there's excellent instruction videos to show you the rules. Simply click on rules when you choose your game, or in the help menu whilst in play. They're excellent little videos and will have you playing these strangely addictive formats in no time at all.
Mad Bomber. Does anyone remember the old Pink Panther cartoons with the Inspector in the middle? If you remember the round 'Bombs' he was forever picking up and letting explode you'll have some idea of what it's about. Confused? You soon will be. Quite simply all balls are worth 1, 2, 3, or 5 points. All balls start out as 3 point green balls. The first ball a cue ball hits on your turn will turn to a yellow two ball worth two points. Hit a Yellow first and it becomes a one point red ball. Hit a red ball and it becomes a 5 point 'Bomb', looking just like those bombs from the aforementioned cartoon. As the bomb is ticking down you must sink it before it explodes, taking other balls off the table. Your turn ends when you fail to pot a ball, or set off a bomb ball whether or not you pot it, (though you still get the points if you do). This is easier on a normal table, as the cool table is cross shaped with only one hole in the centre, whereas the normal table has 6 pockets plus the centre hole (which has a bomb picture around it).
Chameleon Ball. This is another weird and wonderful game, which is reminiscent of the quiz show Turnabout, where you had to change balls to your colour. Sounds weird? You bet it is. Here goes with the explanation. Each player is assigned a colour. All balls are worth one point and start out as grey. The first time a grey ball is struck it changes to your colour. It must be noted that only balls of your colour that you pot count, others are fouls. Should you hit an opponents ball first it changes to grey. Then you can pot it on your next go (as your turn ends if you fail to pot). The cool Chameleon table is shaped like a mushroom, with straight sides for the stem and a D shaped cup. The edge is adorned with colourful images of chameleons, and looks rather nice, if a little garish but its a fun game, especially if there's more than two players.
Poker. For the gamblers among you there's poker. You start with a rack of balls each with a card on it, and the game lasts for two full racks. The racks are all 'Drawn' from the same deck and therefore no two balls are the same. The object is to get the best hand of 5 balls to win the game. However, some balls are supposed to be face down, having a question mark on them, and its only after all the balls have been potted that you find out the value of the card. Players take it in turn, one at a time to take a shot. Whether or not you pot a ball your turn then ends. Once you have potted 5 balls you have the option of discarding every card ball potted after, or one already in your hand. As most balls are identifiable, there's two strategies, sink balls to get yourself a good hand, or sink ones to stop your opponent getting a good hand. If you're good at poker, all you Ernie Bilko's out there will love this game.
Rocket Ball. Arguably the fastest game of pool you'll ever play is rocket ball. The cool table is a triangular one with a hole at the corners and in the centre. All balls are worth a point except the rocket ball. Once the cue ball hits a rocket ball it careers around the table at mach 5 until it either knocks in a normal ball (and then it stops) or goes in the pocket itself. IF it pockets a normal ball you get the point and continue with your turn, but if it's the rocket that goes in it's a foul, and your opponents next turn is worth double points no matter how long it lasts. Definitely good fun, the sheer sight of the rocket ball hurtling around the table will have you squealing with laughter.
24 Cents. This one is played on an octagonal table with four pockets, and comprises of balls with cash values of 1, 5, 10, and 25 cents. There's two ways to win, rack up a score of over 50 cents, or exactly 24 cents. The latter is much harder than you might think, as all balls have to be potted in numerical order. Going for 24 cents, therefore means sinking four 1 cent balls, two 5 centers, and ten cents., whilst opting to go for 50 means sinking the four 5 cant balls and the three 10 centers. The Green 25 cent ball is a big help in this respect. You may find yourself trying for 24 cents, only to have to switch to 50 cents because your opponent pockets four of the seven 1 cent balls. Every time you pot a ball, coins come spraying slowly out of the pocket to add to the effect.
Playing the game.
Playing the game is easy. Placing your mouse on the cue allows you to rotate it around the table, or you can use the four arrows with cues through them in the bottom left hand corner. The outside two move it in large jumps, while the smaller inner arrows allow fine tuning. Whether the arrows or moving the cue is the best method for fine tuning your shot depends on how heavy handed you are with a mouse, or how sensitive your mouse is. If you can move it ultra gently, use the mouse over the cue, otherwise use the arrows Above the fine tune arrow s is a help icon which when clicked pops out a menu from which you can set preferences, view the rules, resign the game and more. Above this is another button which takes you back to the main menu. There's a small picture of a ball in the top right of the screen, and holding the mouse over any ball on the table changes this ball to show you what you are pointing at, especially useful when playing the poker variant. There's three camera angles to choose from 1), overhead, 2) looking down on the table from a fixed point a bit like a TV camera but angled more like an overhead shot, or three, looking down the cue which is like a 3D view. There's three screen pictures in the bottom right of the screen to click on, making camera choices a doddle. These views come in handy if you use the easy or mode as you get a handy aiming path which shows you the path the object ball will take (excluding deflections with other balls) to help you sink those difficult pots, but be warned, in medium mode it only has a length of about two inches, so for shots greater than that you only get a simple aiming guide. In the top right corner there's a cue ball which becomes large when you hover the mouse over it. You use this to click to indicate how much side (English to Americans) or top or bottom spin to put on the ball. As with aiming there's two ways of doing it. Running down the right hand side is a cue. All you do is place the mouse over it, and whilst holding the left button down, move it backwards and forwards just like stroking a real cue. Alternatively, you can hold the mouse over the cue, left click, and then stroke, but it requires a really steady hand, otherwise the cues aim is moved. The cue on the right is the best way of shooting. However there's another glitch when aiming. If the cue crosses the vertical cue and you want to move it, if you right click too near the vertical cue, you take a powerless shot and foul. This is the only serious flaw to the game. However there's no tournament mode in the game whatsoever, nor are there computer players of varying difficulty. As I stated earlier, to play a computer player, you have to select 'Practice' when starting the game. Also you can only play one frame at a time, so 'best of' matches are out. This will annoy the serious player.
Graphics. The Graphics are absolutely superb, as the attached screen shots testify. They are just like a photograph of a real pool table. The balls are so realistic its unbelievable, much better than in Jimmy white's Cueball or World Championship Snooker, and the detail is that good right down to the carpet. It's just like your mums. How do they produce graphics so good for such low minimum computer specs? I don't know, but I will say this, the only things you will ever see are the table, balls, Cue, and the carpet. Virtual Pool 2 which had virtually the same specs (except it needed a 2Mb graphics card) had a full rum rendered in terrible fashion but with superb looking balls and baize. Jimmy whites Cueball had a highly detailed room but poor looking balls, yet looked nowhere near as good as this, while WCS was somewhere between Virtual Pool and Jimmy White's (which needed a p166 for good graphics).
Yes there's a commentary of sorts with this game, and surprisingly, it's a very sexy American FEMALE voice. It doesn't tell you how good your shot was, but announces events such as fouls, scratches, and the next players turn. The same voice is on the instructional videos as well and these are well produced with the commentary providing the essential information in a concise easy to understand form.
The music is professionally done and there's several styles ranging from authentic Jazz to modern dance music, and it changes with each new game type selected. Simply choosing the another game of the same retains the current music. The quality of the music used, especially the Jazz, is first rate, and northern soul fans will love the Ramsey Lewis style instrumental with its smooth vibraphone and authentic sounding horns (though I think the horns are synthesised) sounding very much like an actual 60's recording , even though it was recorded especially for this game..
Getting online is absolute child's play. Simply click 'Online Game' in the main menu, and you'll get the dial up box. After logging onto the net you'll get a 'Select gathering place' screen up with loads of rooms. Choose one with the most opportunities to join. 'Cases Ladder games' appears to be the biggest and best. Once logged in you can create a game or await an invitation. Whilst writing this I was creating an 8 ball game but was asked to play 8 ball by Waki from Bulgaria so I accepted. When setting up a game you can choose any and ask anyone in white to play you. Those in blue are already playing someone. The game loads quickly, and play is as fast as it is on your own PC, even for your opponents shots, although my opponent took his time over shots. You can type in real time as you play, simply by typing in and pressing enter to send your message, you don't have to click on any text boxes at all, it's that simple. I must admit that the first time I played online I found those I could beat eager to leave, and one wily person was I played intercepted my MSG's and changed them to swear words which for a born again Christian like myself is a no go. If your bothered there's an icon you can click to turn chat off. AS for my 2 games with Waki, in the first I was getting well and truly whumped by him. Then he did a stupid thing and took a shot too hard, which resulted in his premature pocketing of the black. He took an early lead in the next, but picketed the white leaving me a 4 ball clearance. I mention this because I can't play pool at all. This game really IS that easy to play.
In my opinion, this is by far and above the best pool game on the market, even though it's over 4 years old now. It's easy to pick up but hard to put down.. Serious pool fans however might find the lack of offline tournament mode and the single game match length off putting. Snooker fans however can buy 'Maximum Cueball' which is this game in all it's glory with snooker as well. I haven't played it, but looking at the snooker screen shots, the photo realism is amazing. The Min specs oddly have doubled to a P166, so whether there's more room detail, I don't know. Also the menu screens may be different, but as the description of the cool games is the same, and the cue and cue ball on the right hand screen is identical it would appear to be cool pool with snooker added on. However, where cool pool is only a fiver (and well worth it) Maximum Cueball was twice the price on the sierra web site a year ago. With it's ease of play, and user friendliness n getting an online game, this triumphs over every other pool game on the market. It's the perfect game for breaking the ice at parties and impressing all your mates. The only trouble you may have is getting hold of a copy, but it's well worth the hunt. If you like snooker, then the Game chain do any three Sold £5.00 titles for a tenner (excluding Disney), and World Championship Snooker and Jimmy whites Cueball are all great games, so get all three (or at least Cool Pool world Snooker and another), and impress your mates with your impressive cue skills.