You've got to have balls to take on Ronnie O'Sullivan, yet that's exactly what I-play has done in this tactile take on its mobile snooker series. And, aside from some nagging doubts about the iPhone controls, it seems to have pulled it off.
First and foremost, the 3D visuals are first rate. Never is there a jagged line or harsh pixel to be seen. While this is probably true of a great many games, staring down the lush felt of a full-sized snooker table really draws you in. In that respect, Ronnie O’Sullivan’s Snooker is a blinding success.
Taking shots is easy and accurate, and that’s the most important aspect of the game, yet it feels as though Ronnie O’Sullivan’s Snooker should be making better use of the accelerometer and multi-touch function for navigation of the table.
Swiping a finger across the screen moves the cue left and right, allowing you to take careful aim. And it is careful, with cue rotation moving painfully slowly at times, though it's a tricky technicality to overcome as your shots also demand accuracy. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s tiresome going around the table testing out your aim on different balls.
Your view is sent right down the cue, and while that’s sweetly realistic an elevated perspective provides greater accuracy. Swiping up and down lifts your view up and can be switched to a top-down angle, which is what you’re likely to make the most use of.
A small section of the cue is moved vertically along the side of the screen to determine how hard you hit the cue ball. It works exactly as it should, though its design means the power meter is always obscured by your finger when in use.
Adding spin to the ball is achieved by touching a cue ball symbol, then moving your finger around to control how you want the white ball to react. This is also a little flaky, as the game regularly switches back to cue movements before you make up your mind, disturbing the shot you previously set up.
On paper it probably seems like a great idea following Ronnie’s career, rather than simply playing match after match, and for the most part it is. The addition of practice rounds in between matches is great, requiring you to clear a selection of reds within a time limit, for example, before moving on to the next big game.
The opponents, however, are extremely unbalanced. While it’s undoubtedly true that the opponents Ronnie faced in real life wouldn’t necessarily have increased in ability on a gradual, sliding scale, it’s jarring to go up against a player who might as well be using a cricket bat instead of a snooker cue one moment, only to face an opponent with a sniper’s scope mounted on his stick the next.
The constant cross and change of challenges does work, if you ignore the stilted attempt to stitch a storyline to the gameplay fabric and potholed difficulty level.
Fortunately, multiplayer helps take the edge off. A pass-to-play system is available, which I’m personally always happy to see included, but there’s also the essential local wi-fi play that’s easy to set up and join.
Topping things off is online play or at least the promise of it. At no point during our review process did a player come online. While this may change as more gamers take up the cue, it’d be nice to be able to connect directly and deliberately with someone specific, in case you should want to challenge a remote friend. Right now, the game picks opponents at random if and when someone is available.Ronnie O’Sullivan’s Snooker is a top notch snooker simulator and that’s of the utmost importance. Better controls and shaving of the fluff around the actual gameplay could ensure a first rate production, which right now it can't easily be accused of.