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Inferno Pool – the PS3 Attitude Review

Submitted by on Monday, 1 June 20098 Comments

Inferno PoolIf Dark Energy’s inaugural title Inferno Pool is a portent of future games from the new digital distributor, other players in the burgeoning market should sit up and take notice.

As what Dark Energy have produced is not only an enjoyable pool simulator on the PS3 – admittedly a niche market – but what might be the first friendship killing game.

For when a game can incite a torrent of invectives from even the most timid of gamers – and they giddily come back for more – it’s a sign that Inferno Pool’s designers have tapped into the winning combination of something both equally fun and primal.

Invite a trio of friends over to partake in Inferno Pool’s multiplayer proving ground, and after the initial fumbling with the controls as each player, soon-to-be cursing like a sailor, figures out what moves the cue and where the fine-tune button is (a vital tool for those who want any chance of winning), prepare to witness scenes of abject treachery. Watch as life-long comrades turn on each other like coyotes and cull the weakest of the species. Balk as predators gang up on any person who displays even a semblance of proficiency at potting balls and prepare to be shocked at acts of revenge and retribution that will see you question just what type of monsters you’ve been friends with all these years.

Prepare to lose friends. Fast.

Prepare to lose friends. Fast.

Which leads us to discuss why Inferno Pool is not just a pool game – it’s a social experiment. In there hidden among the skill of potting balls, quickly lining up shots, mastering banks, combos, spin, jump shots, and the myriad of other quirks, lies the real charm of Inferno Pool – how a seemingly innocent looking game of pool can turn four people who might only have a passing interest in the sport into vindictive, scheming and predatory pool sharks.

It’s a nerve-wracking, frantic and amazingly skillful game. It’s a game where usually the best person wins; a game where patience and steady hands under pressure result in victory and a game that, with the addition of a few beers, could result in a living-room riot.

The premise of Inferno Pool is so simple that, just like all the great “one more go” games, it comes straight from the “why didn’t I think of that” drawer. Take the competitive nature of pool, add online and offline multiplayer where opponents pot balls and choose who among their possibly ex-friends is to receive the fruits of their labour, and watch as chaos and a level of back-stabbing not seen since Roman times plays out.

What Dark Energy have produced is a multifaceted game that appeals across the spectrum of gaming; a title that, while shamelessly casual, is permeated with all the traits and depth that makes hardcore gamers addicted. It’s ridiculously easy to pick up and play and comes highly recommended as a game the whole family, especially a family who may have only a passing relationship with gaming, can participate in and enjoy for what it is: pure competitive fun. However, lurking very close to the surface of its austere concept awaits a degree of difficultly that more experienced gamers will find appealing.

Amazingly, your table going on fire is a good thing.

Amazingly, your table going on fire is a good thing.

Though Inferno Pool offers players the ability to square off against offline and online gamers at the more traditional pool games of 8 and 9 ball, and such games are by no means boring or passé, it’s the Inferno Pool mode where the title’s addictive (and vindictive) nature truly shines. In offline mode you can call upon up to three AI opponents to make up the numbers with the handy ability of assigning their skill level. We should note however that, even the doofuses of the AI controlled opponents are no push-over, suggesting a degree of longevity here for those that stick with the title and really start to excel at potting balls in rapid succession.

After getting some practice in against bots, going up against human opponents is the next natural step. Whether against friends sitting beside you or online versus the multitude of sharks on the PSN, the game takes on a whole new dimension of competitiveness. It’s also possible to mix and match offline and online players in one game and 2v2 contests as a couple against some friends online is a particular treat. Of course, you could also use a player to gang up on the other two online players. Inferno Pool is anything but fair.

Inferno mode for one comes in the form of Endurance, a contest between you and a table of ever-increasing spheroids. As you progress, balls are added to your table with increased frequency and, as soon as 24 of them are up, so is your time. It’s fiendishly difficult as, with more balls on the table at any one time, the more they naturally get in each other’s way. Considering the record is 16 minutes plus, it just boggles the mind. We were lucky to get past 4 minutes.

Endurance Mode - also known as "How to make a grown man cry."

Endurance Mode - also known as "How to make a grown man cry."

If we’re to find any negatives with Inferno Pool it’s in some of the visual design decisions. Sure, unlocking Inferno Mode results in pockets sprouting flames but, considering the arcade feel to its game-play as opposed to a purer pool simulator, we would have thought a more playful aesthetic and some flashy effects would have been appropriate. Instead, the game goes for the realistic angle with environments that are a little bland and sterile.

It’s nitpicking however, and players that spend time checking out the pool halls’ fidelity will quickly find their table swamped with their opponents’ balls. The online more can also be somewhat tricky at times with four-player face-offs a little difficult to fill. There is also no one willing to play unranked games at the moment which may of course change over time.

Single player Inferno Pool is a good game that should keep most people even moderately entertained and is worth the price of admission alone. The multiplayer aspect of the hame game however elevates the Inferno Pool experience from a fun and functional pool sim to a Thunderdome-esque contest of skill and cutthroat survival of the quickest. It’s the perfect party game as it appeals to the basest of our human nature – the chance to go up against all challengers and to wipe the floor with them. Hopefully while some girls are watching.

We have a feeling that, no matter what the social occassion in the future, Inferno Pool will be making an appearance. And we can’t think of a better recommendation than that.