Monday, September 16, 2013

Game 11 - 3D Pocket Pool

Games on older systems billed as 3D are nearly always going to be disappointing. Usually it's some sort of disorienting use of 2D sprites and trickery. On top of that, the games are usually awful to play because the developers blew the whole budget on the technology making the game look "cool" but forgot to actually consider how it would work in practice.

So I was not looking forward to this game at all. Not only does it have 3D right in the name, it's also a game that I hate in real life. Ugh, pool.

The title screen does not to do anything to persuade me that I'm going to like this game. I mean, come on guys, sci-fi pool? How many gimmicks can you cram into this? And don't get me started on the art for the only two women in the game. Color me not impressed, and also pink.

And if I didn't like how this game looked, I hate how it sounds. The music is terrible, I mean really terrible. I thought 102 Dalmatians was bad but I was wrong, I didn't even know what bad was. No, the music in 3D Pocket Pool is just...okay, the best comparison I can draw is the noise a cat makes when it's vomiting as interpreted by an insane cyborg on mescaline. I'm not even joking, there is no tune, just a bunch of gravelly burps and screeches played on repeat for the duration of the game. I wish I could play it for you, because I cannot describe this sound that my earbuds are currently making without resorting to hyperbole. I actually tried the game in 3 different emulators because I thought the music was playing incorrectly. But apparently it was composed to sound like a software error

Ah well let's get this over with. I choose "practice" rather than tournament because playing a tournament with this music might actually be unsafe for myself and those within stabbing distance to me. I arbitrarily choose "8 Ball UK Rules," because I know nothing about pool. Then I get to choose my character from the roster of generic sci-fi aliens they saw fit to include.
Libertarian Astronaut Pool Player
Yes, the purple haired lady is named Vamp. Her pink skinned counterpart is named Babe. Ugh, just...ugh. At least Vamp has some lofty goals. Babe "hopes to promote herself as an actress- and to hire a nanny!" Are they making fun of singles mothers with that? I'm not sure, but I hate it.

Anyway, I go with the strange green fellow named Tatu who apparently would use his winnings to create a sitcom in LA where he's the star. Way to shoot low, Mr. Intergalactic Traveller.

I brace myself for the pixelly horrors of "3D" pool that I've signed myself up for. Thankfully the music has gone silent while..oh, no, this new song just took a second to start. Somehow it's even worse than the title screen, something I thought to be physically impossible.

The game finally loads, and it's more awful than I imagined.
Actually...this isn't half bad.
After the break shot, which looks quite nice, I'm given full control of the camera, and...I'm pleasantly surprised! This is actually very very nice looking, and the controls are super responsive. The game runs quickly and it seriously looks like 3D. I don't know how they did it, but they got a real 3D game out of the tiny little Game Boy Color.

It's pretty cool to play too. While I'm lining up a shot, it shows me exactly where the cue ball and and the first ball it hits would go in real time. I basically get to watch every single shot I could possibly make. It definitely lowers the challenge a whole bunch because there's no skill involved, but it's fun to look at.

Unfortunately, that's where the fun ends. This game, despite its weird sci-fi trappings and psychotic music, is really just pool. Pool where I get to see my shot play out before I even hit the button. I'm playing without the time limit on my shot, so I basically just try every variation until I find one that works. Which is boring.
Tatu plays with his eyes closed, like in that movie about psychic pool players
If I had used the 30 second shot timer, I predict the game would have been frustrating rather than more interesting. The problem is that I actually have to watch the animation every time I move the, uh, shooter stick even a smidge. This takes up tons of time and would quickly run out any time limit in place before I could even predict where the ball was going to go.

Also, when I try doing any real skillful shots, the 3D gets in the way instead of being helpful at all. Since you can't ever see the whole table, predicting a shot where you hit anything more complex than a direct shot is absolutely impossible. It would have been much easier (and more fun) to just play a top-down pool game.
To be fair, I am awful at pool regardless of the perspective
In any case, during my first turn I sink a bunch of the yellow balls before screwing up royally and fouling. Then the computer proceeds to sink every red ball in turn, and then the black, and win. On his first go. Wow. I guess they didn't pull any punches when they made this AI. He manages to get some pretty difficult shots quite easily, including ones that would most likely be impossible for a human using these controls.
Tatu has a pretty good rage face
Well, at least I don't have to listen to the music anymore. I think I'll just...turn this off.

Honestly, I've never understood how these sorts of games get made. A fairly amazing technology, 3D on the Game Boy, is absolutely wasted on this game. I'm especially bewildered by the horrific music. Nobody could have heard that and thought "Yep, this is exactly what we need in this game where we put lots of effort into making it a smooth and enjoyable experience." My guess is that they spent most of their time and budget on the technology and art, and forgot to put music in or playtest their game. So they got Bob the 3D programmer to throw together some music - "is it okay if I just bang trashcan lids together for an hour?" - added a couple of pool balls and called it a day.

Well, at least it wasn't entirely a waste. I was able to get some good material out of it, and you got to waste 15 minutes of your work day reading about a game you'll never play. So if there's any lesson to learn from this, it's that "one man's trash is another man's waste of time." 

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