Pool sims are perfect for idling away the hours when there's nothing better to do. The appeal of such games may puzzle some - after all, what's to stop you heading off to the nearest boozer to play the game in real life? With balls and chalk and beer and crisps and everything? The thing is, and as most pasty-faced computer freaks will understand, there are certain individuals out there who can hurt you, and staying at home to play your favourite pub pastime can be a far safer option. Many people may already be able to back me up here, seeing as Virtual Pool 2 and Jimmy White's 2 are already well-established as genre favourites.
So, Gremlin and Pool Shark. As with the aforementioned titles, this pool sim has pretty much everything your average pool fan could ask for: UK (and US) rules over a variety of match play options, a massively comprehensive tutorial, trick shots, open practice, an easy-to-use control system and some half-decent 3D graphics. Pool Shark, again like the above, is extremely easy to get Into, and is particularly suitable for beginners. It is only a game of pool, after all.
Make Your Shot
Shot-making is simply a case of sighting up visually, using the mouse in conjunction with the row of icons at the bottom of the screen that enable you to alter how the cueball is struck, then stroking the mouse at the desired speed to make the shot.
The physics engine, which is oh so important in a game such as this, is excellent - hit a ball too hard and it leaps convincingly out of an open pocket, and so on. It's all pretty much the same as in all the other pool games, except that it has an unnecessary bank of icons plonked at the bottom of the screen to annoy you and get in the way.
Rough Around The Edges
Where Pool Shark stands out from its competitors, though, is in the graphics department - although unfortunately not in a particularly good way. Pool Shares graphics are surprisingly rough, although thankfully that doesn't interfere with the game too much. The tables are poorly textured, and some of the backgrounds look very dated. The blue and white icons overlaying the screen aren't much cop either. There are numerous computer-controlled characters that animate well - walking around the table, chalking their cues - but they're badly modelled in 3D and superfluous to the game itself. The floating cursor is also slow and annoying, and should have been removed along with the icons.
Apply a bit of patience and effort, and these gripes become fairly redundant in light of Pool Shafts accessibility and solidity. It's not a bad game by any means. In fact it's fun, especially with two or more players. However, at the end of the day it loses out to Virtual Pool 2s quality and finesse and should be considered the third-best buy in the genre.