I don't know about you, but there are some gaming genres that I find hard to enjoy simply because I don't like playing them with a controller.
Driving games are a perfect example. Put me in front of a steering wheel, gears and pedals and I will play Forza 3 just like anybody else. Put a PS3 or a 360 controller in front of me and I have little to no interest in playing. Another type of game that has a similarly minimal appeal are those based on pool. In real life, I love playing pool; it's fun, relaxing, and a great social game with buddies. But on a computer or console, meh.
With that said, I am sure there are people out there who enjoy playing virtual pool, and for those people you can't go wrong with Hustle Kings on the PlayStation Network (PSN).
While there is nothing genre defining here (I remember playing similar games on my old Nintendo in the late 80's) this is a well crafted and polished pool game. The graphics look fantastic, especially when you adjust the camera angles to get a good look at your shot. The textures of the table, the shine on the balls, it all looks great. There are even multiple environments that you will get to play in, and they have all been crafted with good detail and slick visuals.
The music also should get a special mention, as there are some pretty cool tracks in there. Best of all, you can adjust the sound track to your pleasing. If you prefer only jazz music while you play, no problem, just take out all the other genres in the option menu and listen away. It's simple and an option I wish more games would offer.
The gameplay is exactly what you would expect from a pool game. You aim your shot, choose the angle you want to hit the white ball on if you want to give it some spin (or do some cool trick shots), adjust the power, and then take your shot either by pulling the left stick back and forward, or using a timing mini game to make your shot as accurate as possible. There are plenty of little details to the game as well - for example, you will need to use chalk while you play otherwise your shots will get worse. There are even various types of chalk to choose from, all with different benefits. In order to get new chalk, however, you have to buy it. This means winning games and making some money.
As you play through the game and make some cash you can then go into the store and buy a new stick, chalk, different avatar choices and a few other things. It is great that the developers put this in the game, but for some items you have to wonder what the point is. Your avatar, for example, is just a picture that will represent you in-between games. During the actual game you are simply a floating stick. With this in mind, why would anyone want to spend the money they have earned on more avatar options when they have zero impact on the game?
At the time of this review, the game was not available to the public and therefore I could not test the online mode. It is good that the option is there, but considering pool is such a great social game and most players with a PS3 do not have a microphone this hurts the social aspect of playing pool online. Playing against a silent floating stick just waiting to see it take its shot does not sound like much fun to me.
Hustle Kings is what it is - A good looking, polished, and extremely capable virtual pool game. If you like that sort of thing and have been waiting for one to come out, then you can't go wrong here. Oh, there is no down-trou though, so that might be a deal breaker for some.