Pool is one of those rare sports with near-universal appeal. Bars and pubs all around the world feature those familiar green or blue oblong tables, and they’re usually busy.
Perhaps that broad appeal has to do with its inclusive nature. It’s a highly skilful game when played properly, but anyone can have a good game with sufficient luck (and, some would insist, alcohol).
That could be why it’s such an appealing sport to replicate on mobile phones. Polarbit’s latest attempt, 8ball, is a typically casual take on the game.Banking on simplicity
There’s no fancy tournament structure here. Starting a fresh game places you straight into competition against a string of AI players (denoted by cartoony avatars), and you play successive single-frame matches until you lose.
The pool itself is a bright and breezy affair, with a fixed top-down view. You aim your cue with left and right virtual buttons, and take your shot with another – holding it down and releasing to determine the power.
You can apply spin by touching a ball icon at the bottom-left of the screen, then dragging the strike-point accordingly with a virtual touch-pad that appears.
It’s a simple and effective system, with a shot indicator that tells you where both cue and target ball will go immediately after contact. It doesn’t tell you how the balls will bounce off of the cushions, or what effect spin will play on the path of the cue ball, so there remains a certain degree of skill involved.
Unfortunately, the ball physics just aren’t accurate enough. The cue ball pulls up far too abruptly when travelling slowly, and sometimes it doesn’t move at all when an ultra-fine cut is attempted (despite the contact sound playing and the lack of a foul call). The breaks would have you believe the balls are made of lead.
The AI, too, is a little dumb. While it’s a very efficient potter, it won’t even attempt a simple single-cushion escape when snookered, ploughing stupidly into the obstructing ball instead.8ball is a fun and accessible take on pool with a no-frills, single-player-only structure (though there are online high-score tables). There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but the areas that unavoidably require a little more depth – namely AI and physics – are somewhat lacking.