Premier League Snooker
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| Premier League Snooker

Life is a battle of substance versus style. In the world of politics, bookish Al Gore ran for president against charismatic George W Bush; in music, good boy Gary Barlow is forever overshadowed by bad boy Robbie Williams; and in snooker, the maverick O'Sullivan is the nemesis of straight man Hendry.

In contrast with I-play's World Championship Pool 2007, Premier League Snooker is a Hendry, which is to say its success rests in the fact that it eschews showboating in favour of polishing its engine to an unassailable sheen.

If you want to see what we mean by unassailable, you needn't look much farther than its cast of professional players, a stellar line-up including the aforementioned Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan, as well as John Higgins, Steve Davis, Neil Robertson, Jimmy White, and Ding Jun-Hui, all of whom appear in crisp digitised form alongside information like world ranking, place of birth, and total career winnings.

There are relatively few game modes in which to take these giants on, however, although even in Rookie mode the difficulty is sufficiently high to keep you from breezing through.

You can play a Quick Match, choosing six, ten, or 15 reds, or you can enter a Tournament to go up against all seven of the players you don't choose to be in a round-robin competition. Should you wish to snooker a close friend or acquaintance, there's also a pass-the-handset multiplayer.

Not a wealth of options, then, but as we said Premier League Snooker is all about fundamentals.

The control interface is remarkably concise, with a white line shooting from the cue ball to indicate direction. The only input you need to make before a shot is to choose the speed at which the line rotates when you hold '4' and '6', determine the spin, and judge the power.

If anything, in fact, the interface is too concise. Though we didn't exactly miss it, we were surprised to find that a game as authentic as Premier League Snooker doesn't allow you to raise the butt of your cue, without which ability it's impossible to play swerve.

As well as making pots easier, the white line of the interface underlines the game's excellent ball physics. When you change the pace or spin of a shot, the line moves accordingly. If you hit the ball at an angle against a cushion, the angle at which it bounces off changes depending on the pace, rather than simply the geometry, and it's this level of accuracy that marks Premier League Snooker out.

The ball physics are impeccable. There's never a time when you feel an angle is too acute or a stop too abrupt, and you quickly start playing Premier League Snooker the way you'd play real snooker, going for the same balls and making the same breaks. When we speak of getting the fundamentals right, this is what we mean.

As in the recent Table Tennis Star, developer Shadow Light has chosen to pre-render the 3D environment, with the result that everything looks beautifully crisp. The camera is fixed a couple of metres above the table, and even from that height the grain is visible in the wood of the rim, as are dashes of chalk on the baize. The overhead lights reflect off the surface with an almost photorealistic dull sheen, and the balls look life-like to the point that they subtly reflect the green of the table.

There are some minor graphical imperfections – a ball will occasionally overlap another in front of it, or appear in full when it should be half-obscured by the edge of the table – but in general Premier League Snooker looks far better than most mobile titles, and wouldn't look out of place on a PSP.

The consequence of this astonishing fidelity is that the camera is fixed while you take your shot, and there's a limited number of positions to view the table from, overhead being by far the most practical. By design, the game looks more like a beautiful slideshow than a pixellated film.

We hasten to add that the fixity of the camera has no effect on the gameplay, other than occasionally forcing you to turn your phone around and squint down the directional line, but some are bound to hanker for swinging, dynamic, showboating polygons, even at the cost of some polish.

Still, that's what nemeses are for. If you want arcade thrills, you might want to look elsewhere, but there's no doubting the sheer class of Premier League Snooker. For now, it's Hendry 1, O'Sullivan 0.

Premier League Snooker

While some may baulk at the relative lack of options and the lack of 3D animation, the physics at the heart of Premier League Snooker are beyond reproach. Mobile snooker just doesn't get better
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