How My Editors Conspired to Reignite My Addiction to Virtual Pool

Back in high school, I was addicted to the Sims Pool on my iPod Nano. I have no shame in admitting that I may or may not have wasted more than a few class periods lining up pocket shots and beating computer opponents, all while hiding it behind whatever assigned textbook I was supposed to be using for class. Ever since I haven’t picked up another pool game with the same amount of fervor, or play time, as that game. However, Cue Club 2 is quickly approaching the same level of addiction.

My life spiralling out of control aside, Cue Club 2 is a fun little pool game made by Bulldog Interactive Studios. Well, I say “pool game” but that’s a bit of an understatement. Cue Club 2 contains three variations of pool, three variations of Snooker, two unique game modes that aren’t actually game modes, and Killer Pool. Covering a comprehensive list of pool variations, Cue Club 2 definitely offers more than the standard pool game on Kongregate will give you; but does it leave a better impression?

The biggest draw to Cue Club 2, of course, is its variety of game modes. Players have the option to play quick matches, advance through the game’s “Bar Challenges” (The closest thing a game like this can have to a story mode), or participate in tournaments for Pool and Snooker right off the bat. More importantly, each game type and variant is different from the others and allows the player a good amount of agency in their virtual pool experience. For example, aside from the normal 9 and 8, players seeking a shorter pool experience can engage in a six-ball game type. Or if you want all the fun of playing pool but with a slightly harder twist, you can play Killer Pool, where missing a shot takes away one of three lives.

Complimenting this is the game’s very beginner-friendly nature. While there’s a huge number of pool game types and modes, ten all in all if you’re not counting the practice mode; with four or five different modes of play to choose from, the game has a section labelled “References” that’s filled with documentation. Each section of documentation plainly and clearly explains each game type with enough detail to make it easy to jump right into a mode you may have never had any experience with. I’ve never played Snooker before, but after spending a few minutes reading up on it in-game I was soundly getting thrashed with a full understanding of why.

The game modes aren’t the only place where players have agency, however. The entire game is loaded with tons and tons of customization options. True, 90% of the options are purely cosmetic; having little to no actual impact on the game, such as chalk colour and cue stick type. Though other options, like stick length and variant rules, can have huge impacts on the way you play the game. Longer sticks have more power behind their shots while shorter ones can pull off amazing tricks using positioning, and setting the variant rules can either make the game easier or harder depending on how you set them.

A lot of the cosmetics look really great as well, albeit lacking any sort of function. Regarding the actual gameplay, everything looks great. The balls are shiny, smooth, and realistic; the tabletops and rails look fantastic as well, and everything gives off the perfect feeling of playing pool inside a lounge/bar/basement.

Unfortunately, the pool assets are really the only good assets in the game. The menus are simplistic, plain, and drenched in copious amounts of purple, with horrendously disproportionate character portraits and large obnoxious text blurbs during games that obstruct player vision and linger for longer than wanted or needed.

You’ll need that screen space the blurbs normally take up as well since this game is surprisingly accurate when emulating pool physics. Sure, you can’t bounce the balls over each other, but everything else is smooth and accurate. By setting up the way you hit the ball, the angle of the stick, and the amount of power in your shot, players can set up amazing trick shots. Made easier, although slightly less realistic, by the game’s wide pathing mechanism; pros and amateurs alike can easily adapt to the game’s mechanics.

Speaking of mechanics, the game across all difficulties, remains fair consistently. The computer opponents AI never rubber bands to an incredibly ridiculous level like in other games of this style and remain believably challenging. Not to say the AI’s are pushovers either, as I’ve earned my share of losses even on the easy difficulty, but Cue Club 2 does a great job of giving the player a challenging yet fair experience. Additionally, each AI is represented by a unique (albeit poorly drawn) character. With models ranging from standard handsome bar patron to a talking orangutan named “Lenny”, each enemy AI looks absolutely silly to the point of being cheesily enjoyable.

If you tire of traditional pool mechanics, there’s also two game modes that players can screw around in called “Detonator” and “Slam”, which have no real objectives but allow the player to experiment with silly mechanics. Blowing up the first ball touched by a full power shot and allowing players to swing any ball around by a tether respectively, they act as nice stress relievers with silly mechanics. Not necessarily a strong selling point, these two unique game modes are great fun all the same.

Overall, Cue Club 2 is a great game… if you’re into pool. Everything’s done right, with features that go above and beyond your standard pool simulation, and shows off the studio’s ability to craft games with great physics. Unfortunately, this game is only likely to appeal to those who already enjoy playing what’s on offer. If you have an interest in Pool and Snooker or have a child who’d be interested in either game, then I can safely recommend Cue Club 2 over any other pool simulator that’s currently on market; and you should look out for it on Steam later this month or download it now from the official site.