I am awful at pool. I can’t break to save my life. Usually, my only hope of winning is if my opponent goofs up. Luckily, there are pool video games. At least when I play pool in electronic form I have a fighting chance. After playing Hustle Kings for the PS Vita, I feel like a real pool shark. Well, more pool guppy, but at least I’m some sort of pool playing fish.
Some developers try to put in a nonsense story mode in a game that doesn’t need a story mode. Hustle Kings is a pool game that, thankfully, has no story mode. There is a Career Mode, but there is no overarching narrative to drive it. You play pool, bottom line.
Fortunately, Hustle Kings does pool justice. There are three different ways to control the pool cue that range from just swiping your finger back and releasing like pinball to total manual control that can be a bit touchy (pun intended). The ball physics are as close to real as I’ve seen in a pool game. You even have your choice of different colored chalks, some of which grant you special abilities. There are also three different camera angles: behind the cue ball, overhead, and free. I found the free camera to be pretty useless and kind of gimmicky. Moving the Vita moves the camera and can be nauseating. I mainly used the overhead view unless I was fine-tuning my shot.
Shooting pool in Hustle Kings is simple. There is a pool cue on the right side of the screen and a cue ball in the bottom left corner. The ball in the corner is used for spin and trick shots and can be used with the touch screen or the right analog stick. The cue on the right is self-explanatory. You swipe down and then swipe up to hit the cue ball. Depending on the degree of control, the pool cue may not hit with 100% accuracy. While playing the game on the train, the rocking caused me to swipe the cue to the side a bit and messed up some of my shots. There is also an aiming indicator that greatly aids pool guppies such as myself figure out where a shot will most likely go. This indicator isn’t 100% accurate because of the power and accuracy that the player still has to put into the shot, but it definitely helps a lot and makes the game more enjoyable, at least to me.
Speaking of enjoyment, I found many different options in Hustle Kings that kept me playing. There is the obvious one-on-one exhibition match versus the computer as well as career mode and tournaments. Every pool variation you can think of is here from standard US 8-Ball to Cutthroat. Hustle Kings also sports different bonus games such as beat-the-clock, where you have a certain amount of time to clear the table of eight balls, to survivor, where you have one shot to sink four balls that are in a straight line. There are also trick shot challenges and online play. Players can even use in-game currency to buy new chalk, cues, balls, avatars, and even bonus games and trick shots. The Playstation Store (at this point in time) offers different chalks, a Snooker Pack, and for those who don’t have time to unlock it all manually, a pack that unlocks everything.
Hustle Kings does pool and does it well. Aside from some bad techno music, I really enjoyed everything Hustle Kings had to offer. It also allows for cross-platform play with the PS3, which I did not have a chance to try out. One nice feature about this is that when you buy one version, the other is free. Once I am able to test it out, I’ll post my thoughts in a Just In Bailey article. If you enjoy pool, or want to enjoy it but are no good at the real thing, Hustle Kings is a good game. The $10 purchase price might be a turn-off for some considering there are similar games on the iTunes App Store for much cheaper. Be you a pool shark or pool guppy, Hustle Kings is a sea of features that will keep you entertained.
-Easy to pick up and play
-Gives people who can’t play pool in real life hope
-Tons of features
-No pointless story mode
-Gimmicky third camera control
-Somewhat of a high price point
-Not much customization
-Pay real money to unlock everything? Really?