Now that the Vita is out (and already in a lot of Wellingtonian hands according to the inbuilt ânearâ app), the big question is - what games are worth your moola? For any wannabe pool sharks, Hustle Kings is right on the money and delivers an 8-ball to the right corner pocket (of your trousers).
Developed by VooFoo Studios, it first appeared on the PS3 as a downloadable title on PSN late in 2009. Since that time VooFoo have almost been in stasis mode, only releasing one other game titled Pure Chess for PSN (and now the Vita as well). The antithesis of a huge game company, VooFoo have focused on perfecting their duo of table-top games and delivered a fun and accurate simulation of each for PlayStation.
Anyone who played Hustle Kings on the PS3 knows what to expect in its pocket-sized sibling. The game is set in a young, vibrant world where pool is what âall the kidsâ are up to now-a-days. Every character looks like they just stepped off the set of an MTV music video and the locales consist of lush night clubs and private VIP lounges where every surface shimmers like theyâve been buffed by hundred dollar bills. Strange, as all of my experiences playing pool have been in dark rancid bars where everything is sticky with a translucent goo and the carpet is starting to dissolve...
Not so in Hustle Kings. VooFoo have obviously spent a large amount of time making everything gleam and shine with illustrious glory. Chrome and neon litters the screen and watching your immaculately polished balls bouncing all over the place is a joy. Even the soundtrack, which includes everything between hip-hop and lounge jazz, sets the tone for sultry stroke play. Ive run out of pool related innuendo, but this game is like porn for pool players [phwooar, check out that rack! - Ed.]
Despite the over-the-top glorification of the pub sport, Hustle Kings has a solid pool game at its core. There are a wealth of game types, from the standard 8-ball, 9-ball, and snooker modes through to complicated trick shots and timed shot counters. The game also includes mini-games like clearing the table with a set number of strokes, or being the first to clear 30 balls from the table before your opponent (in any order).
Thanks to the gentle learning curve of the computer opponents and the ability to set the length of your trajectory line, Hustle Kings is a forgiving game that will be accessible to just about any player. The game also includes a variety of different power meters, each of which use the touch screen to adjust your shot strength. The simple meter is simply a matter of dragging your finger and releasing, while the advanced one requires you to physically flick the cue with the exact right force for an accurate shot. They both take some getting used to, but sinking balls is relatively straight forward a few games in.
The trick shots are challenging enough for even expert pool players, though. Although guided with hints and even a video showing you the shot type, getting the spin, power and angles all perfect can be a frustrating experience. Tasks include potting dual balls without moving designated ones, something that can be achieved by using jump shots or curving the ball with a perfect touch on the cue ball. They take a lot of practice unfortunately, almost to the point where finally nailing the shot isnât even all that rewarding.
Control wise, Hustle Kings uses a lot of the Vitaâs setup to its advantage. Lining up the angle of your shot is performed with the left stick; the spin on the ball (ie: where your cue strikes the cue ball) is done with the right; and setting the power is via an on-screen meter with touch controls. Anyone with a Vita will know just how sensitive that little control stick can be and when attempting to tweak a shot by one or two degrees, can be nigh impossible. Thankfully VooFoo realised and your aim can be adjusted by using the touch screen as well, giving you a much greater level of control.
The game revolves around a watered down Career mode where players start at beginner level and take on various opponents, gradually working their way up to professional level. Along the way, youâll need to partake in various challenges that all test your cue skills. A lot of them are fun, including having just 15 shots to clear the table, or a three-way game where each player has to protect their colour of ball to outlast the opponents. The game also records pretty much every statistic under the sun while you work your way around the table. Total number of shots, foul counter, number of games won / lost as well as countless trophies to unlock and video replays racked up along the way. Hustle Kings packs in plenty.
Of course, Hustle Kings isnât a game for everyone. While others might give it a miss, physics majors and pool sharks will definitely get a kick out of this game. And, at a price of $15.50 (and a download size of just 400MB), it certainly wonât break the bank for a few hours of solid gameplay either. I think VooFoo Studios need all the encouragement they can get, so for the price of a panini and a coffee, try this out at lunch time instead.