When I was about 10 years old, my parents bought a used pool table off of a family friend for $100. It took six people to lug that thing down into our basement. I was super excited about this new addition to our family, figuring I would become a billiards master in no time. Long story short, that didn’t happen. I played it a handful of times before it broke and we got rid of the table. But during this short window of time, it did spark my interest in billiards video games, an interest that continues to this day. It’s why I was excited to do the Pure Pool review now that the game is on the Switch and costs $15.
I am the person who, when browsing any video game or app store online, always pauses and says “oooh” when I happen upon a nice looking billiards game, and that’s exactly what happened when I saw Pure Pool for the first time on the Switch. The first thing that struck me was how great it looks, and that ended up being a sign of things to come.
What I Like – Pure Pool Review
From the moment I approached the table for the first time, I was met with impressive visuals and some surprisingly immersive sound. The background music feels appropriate and relaxing enough. You can sort of get lost in the atmosphere as you line up your shot, and then you hear the nice smack of the cue ball as you send it crashing into the all the rest. Everything about the game sounds great, from the low hum of the background chatter to the light thud of the nine-ball bouncing quickly off two cushions before dropping into the pocket.
The game looks fantastic as well. The backgrounds don’t have a lot of detail, but they do the job well enough and aren’t a distraction by any means. But the billiards game itself is where the game really shines, literally and figuratively. The balls have a nice shine to them, as do the pool cues.
There’s even a nice Matrix-style slow down animation for certain shots where you get an extreme close-up as your cue strikes the ball, which elicits a small puff of blue chalk into the air. I’ve seen it dozens of times and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. And while there aren’t a lot of customization options, you can change the design and color of the table, as well as the color of your pool cue. It’s not much, but it’s something.
At the end of the day, a billiards game should be fun to play and fun to look at, and it is definitely a fun one to look at. As for the playing part?
Fortunately, the gameplay gets a big thumbs up as well. Every billiards game feels somewhat familiar, but each individual game is obviously different. Fortunately, Pure Pool is really easy to learn. I was up and running within just a few minutes. I wasn’t an expert by any means, but this isn’t a game where you’ll need to carve out a few hours learning how to play. Once you learn the control scheme, you’re basically good to go. In a matter of minutes, you’ll be able to aim, add spin or draw, and shoot with ease. It did not take me long at all to feel comfortable with the game. There’s nothing wrong with a game that has a steep learning curve, but it’s always a breath of fresh air when you feel like you’re getting the good stuff right away, and that’s definitely the case here.
In fact, the entire gameplay experience feels very polished. I didn’t encounter any hiccups or stuttering during my time with the game. One of my favorite aspects is the realistic camera angle. While I’ve enjoyed plenty of billiards games with an overhead view of the table as you aim your shot, that isn’t realistic to what you would see in real life. Pure Pool attempts to replicate that here because instead of an overhead camera angle where you see the entire table, your perspective is behind your shot, as it should be. You’re allowed to move the camera around the entire table, but it maintains the perspective of you walking around the table and not an overhead shot. Essentially, you are viewing the table as you would in real life, and it adds just another level of realism to the game.
There are a lot of different ways you can play this game. At its core, the gameplay is solid, and there are three main games: 8 ball, 9 ball, and snooker. You can freestyle practice by yourself or you can play against the computer, either in a one-off challenge or in the linear career mode, which is really just a cobbled together series of challenges organized by games and skill level. There are also fun challenge games, such as trying to pocket the most number of balls before the clock runs out. If you were just expecting a nice game of billiards, you certainly get that, but you also get a whole lot more.
This is just a small thing, but I always nerd out for sports games that keep track of your overall stats as you play the game. Pure Pool does a great job of that as well, but it takes things a step further with Player DNA. It’s explained in-game that as you play the game, it learns your tendencies and creates a profile for the way you play. Other players can then challenge you online directly or they can download your Player DNA profile to compete against your likeness offline. It’s a pretty cool feature that adds another level of longevity.
What I Don’t Like – Pure Pool Review
The menu system is simple enough, but it could use a little more polish and some better organization. For all of the gameplay, audio, and visual polish, there is a lack of refinement in the way you navigate around the game. It’s just a series of plain text that you click through to get to wherever it is you are going. This isn’t a huge gripe and the menus aren’t that bad, but they do stand out as one of the weaker aspects of the game when you consider how well the rest of the game is put together.
There is a list of Players, for example, but it isn’t immediately clear what that means. It took me a while before I realized it was a mix of actual online players as well as fictional AI opponents for offline play. Once I figured it out, I grew to like it, but the game could’ve done a better job of showing me the ropes, so to speak.
Lack Of A True Career Mode
I touched on this a bit above, and it’s true that the career mode is a positive overall. But what it lacks is certainly a negative. Pure Pool is a great game, but it could’ve been made even better by a true career mode. It isn’t explained or defined in any way. You just select it and keep playing, following the instructions as you go along.
Take the best minds from the Show, 2K, and Madden and get them in a room to design an immersive career mode that takes you from a young rookie to a seasoned vet — from underground pool halls to the pro circuit. Something along those lines would make this game truly feel whole.
Pure Pool is a game that I can see remaining in my regular Switch rotation for years to come. It’s the perfect pick-up-and-play game that you can enjoy for hours at a time as you play through the career mode, but it’s also the perfect time waster if you have only a half hour to kill and want to get in a game or two of 8 ball.
Pure Pool is simple and bare-bones where it needs to be, getting out of the way and allowing users to just relax with a game of billiards, yet it’s also complex and rewarding with a lengthy career mode and fun stats to track as you level up your player. Pure Pool is one of the best billiards games I’ve ever played in terms of both graphics and gameplay. I highly recommend you give it a shot.