Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Amju Super Cool Pool Review

Amju Super Cool Pool, developed and published by Amju Games.
The Good: Good number of game modes, believable physics, trick shot competitions, odd table shapes, dynamically adjusting AI opponent, good sound design
The Not So Good: Really low resolution graphics, more rules variations could have been used
What say you? A simple pool game with a unique theme and some unusual elements: 6/8

Anime is sweeping the nation. The Japanese import has found its way throughout popular culture in the U.S., replacing American Saturday morning cartoons and spawning a large number of computer games. Using this theme is Amju Games and their latest release Amju Super Cool Pool. The Amju universe, which I last reviewed in Amju Super Golf, takes to the billiards table, applying the fanciful setting and physics model to another sport.

The graphics of Amju Super Cool Pool is a tale of two extremes: good theme but poor resolution. The game has a very distinctive feel to it: characters with extremely large heads drawn with bright colors that makes Amju games unique. The setting is very reminiscent of Amju Super Golf (not surprisingly), and it’s a fresh take on a game that could have been represented in a more conventional environment. Sadly, Amju Super Cool Pool displays at such a low resolution that all of the objects in the game look jagged, blocky, and outdated. The game uses 640 by 480 pixels, a standard that was passé several years ago, especially with the increasing usage of LCD monitors. Normally, I don’t put that much emphasis on graphics, but pool ball identification is an important part of any billiards game, and the low resolutions of Amju Super Cool Pool makes it hard to identify solids from stripes. I shouldn’t have to squint to tell if the ball in the distance is a 6 or a 14. Just bump the resolution up and all of those problems would be solved. Like (most of) the graphics, the sound design is also very unique and distinctive. I love the squeaky foul noise, and while the characters don’t talk, a game is full of different effects that fit the theme well. The background music is also well-done. Amju Super Cool Pool has some of the best graphics and sound design of any game, it’s just too bad you can’t see some of the detail.

Amju Super Cool Pool makes some additions to the basic pool formula that makes it unique in terms of gameplay. The controls are fairly conventional: you aim, add spin, and determine power with the mouse. The game features six-ball, nine-ball, U.S. eight-ball, and UK eight-ball (red and yellow balls instead of stripes and solids). The only addition I’d like to see is more conventional game types, but Amju Super Cool Pool makes up for this in alternative modes of play. Crazy pool adds timed exploding balls, you can play with big or small pockets, on tables with different shapes (a “T,” for instance), or try a set of trick shots. These features are definitely one-of-a-kind, and they make Amju Super Cool Pool more than just another pool game. You can play any of the modes in a one-player practice mode (that shows the shot path), single player against the adept AI opponent, or against another human player at the same computer (no online play). The gameplay itself is solid and the physics are believable. The AI opponent seems to adjust her skill level according to how well you are doing, always providing a good challenge for the player. Overall, Amju Super Cool Pool is more than a typical, run-of-the mill pool game, and its exclusive gameplay additions make it a cut above the rest.

Amju Super Cool Pool does exactly what it needs to in order to compete with other billiards games: it offers a unique theme and distinctive gameplay elements. The overall setting of the game is great: the graphics and the sound are like nothing you’ll find in any other pool game, but having the game displayed at higher resolutions would be a definite plus. Amju Super Cool Pool takes a tried and true billiards formula and adds in unique table designs and additional game modes that other titles don’t offer. Amju Super Cool Pool also has a solid computer opponent and entertaining multiplayer on the same computer. Amju Super Cool Pool’s wonderful theme and exclusive gameplay elements make it a very intriguing title for those looking for a fresh take on the game of pool.