Perhaps we're spoiled rotten these days, or mesmerised by the leaps and bounds handheld gaming has taken recently. A game that doesn't crack the mobile's screen with astonishing graphics, exhibit a soundtrack that'd put the Prodigy's iPod to shame or singlehandedly invent a whole new gaming genre just doesn't seem worthy of praise. Premier League Snooker 2008 does none of these things, but it's a timely reminder that a good game doesn't hinge on such superficial factors.
And there's no shortage of snooker and pool games right now, so it's up against some pretty stiff competition – not least from its own 2007 incarnation, which comfortably bagged itself a Silver Award, and Steve Davis's recent foray into pool, built on the same game engine. But Shadow Light Games's experience has clearly taught the developer that trying to fix a system that isn't even faulty, let alone broken, is a shortcut to failure. Premier League Snooker 2008, therefore, is more of the same. Pocket gamers who've lost days of their lives to Shadow Light's billiard games will be very glad to hear that, we've no doubt.
If the game solicits any serious criticism, it's that the 2008 version is almost identical to the 2007 one, but considering the quality of the previous game that's not blackest mark it could have against its name. What's important is that the same impeccable ball physics are still present and correct, so an authentic and highly accessible game of snooker can still thrive on the mobile platform.
Like all things of an ergonomic and efficient nature, Premier League Snooker 2008's finest accomplishment (the aforementioned physics engine) is born out of remarkable simplicity. A white direction line marks out the trajectory of the cue ball, followed by a shorter, relevantly coloured line denoting the expected action of the ball it hits. The speed at which the cue rotates around the white ball can be adjusted, allowing you to run around the table to get your shot aligned, then slowed to an infinitesimal crawl for the utmost accuracy.
Once aligned, the system moves to the tip of the cue and offers you the option to put spin on the white ball. This is the moment when you begin to consider your next shot, and the direction line adjusts itself accordingly so you can aim to position the cue ball suitably after shooting. The shot completes after you've set the power gauge – a simple sliding scale. This system is genuinely beautiful to watch in action – immediately obvious in its purpose and equally straightforward in operation.
As always, Shadow Light has opted for the pre-rendered environments, so the majority of your interaction is from a view directly above the table. Too many pool and snooker games tax the system with 3D tables, only to settle for clunky, rough-hewn graphics that still cause the Java framework to collapse. The skill at which this developer handles pre-drawn environments, with the ball and cue system seamlessly overlaid, is a delight to watch and represents a view of snooker almost identical to the televised perspective we associate with the professional game.
There aren't many variations on a real game of snooker, so Premier League Snooker 2008 is equally sparse when it comes to game modes. But the two-player pass-the-handset option, and the function to play with fewer reds for a quicker game are very welcome, as is the expected league-based gameplay. All the top players have proudly lent their names to the game, from stalwarts like Hendry, Davis and O'Sullivan to contemporary green felt maestros like Ding Jun-Hui, so the authenticity of the development is quite complete.
Unfortunately, Premier League Snooker has made very little headway on last year's release. Quite what Shadow Light Games could do to improve the system we wouldn't like to say, but there's little reason for owners of the 2007 edition to upgrade. If you're new to the franchise, however, this is undoubtedly at the top of the prolific snooker and pool mobile gaming league (if you prefer pool over snooker, however, you should consider Steve Davis Pool Star – as mentioned, the game is built on exactly the same engine as Premier League Snooker 2008) and a vital addition to your mobile gaming library.