Jimmy White's 2: Cueball
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Where do you live? And I don't mean in terms of geography. For instance, Mallo lives in a meat pie, which he shares with three others. Charlie Brooker lives in a cartoon world of ceaseless paranoia, which he can't seem to move out of. Chris lives in a smoky haze, Prezzer in Bag End with his cousin Frodo, and Macca resides in a homemade Quake level where the toilets don't flush (hence the brown walls). Steve Hill just exists (being a vegetarian and all) and I, as you should know from childhood stories, live with my mum, brothers and sisters in a giant shoe.
The point is that none of us have room for a pool table and we certainly don't have the space to fit in a snooker table as well. Now though, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we can all consider our homes extended.
Buying a copy of Jimmy White's 2: Cueball will add two new tastefully decorated games rooms and a sumptuous hall connecting them. You can bring your mates along, drink beer, smoke tabs and generally while away the wee small hours shooting pool and throwing arrows. You'll never need to go to the pub ever again. Unless you want beer. Or to pull some old slapper.
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What Cueball gives you is a whole compendium of pub sports; the most important of which are pool, snooker and darts. For completeness you also get a one-arm bandit and a draughts board, all perfectly rendered in 3D. And there's Dropzone (one of Archer Maclean's early C64 classics). You also get a basic CD player into the bargain, so you can slip in some Chas & Dave classics while you go snooker loopy. Being a game, there are no urinals to get splashback from, no graffiti for you to read and no people for you to buy drinks for. For the price of a night out you'll get a few good nights in, and you can't ask fairer than that, can you?
The game starts in the lobby where you can either read through the high-score tables or wander around, Quake-style. You can dim the lights if you're feeling romantic, which helps with frame rates if your computer's a bit crap. If you go into the snooker room you can ogle the Renaissance paintings. In the poolroom, which is decorated with 1950s Americana, you can catch baseball on TV, or even take a look at the potted plants... like, wow.
Suffice to say, details are everywhere - you'll even find a mousehole tucked behind one of the chairs. Leave your PC for a couple of minutes and bees will appear and take you on a flyby of the room, showing you more detail than you would probably care to see.
Once the novelty factor wears off, which it does pretty quickly, you'll soon have to decide on which game to play. From this point on in you'll probably never wander around again. Where you start is up to you. Draughts is just draughts and the one-arm bandit is a mild diversion, though both look and sound incredibly authentic. Apart from the odd Dropzone sesh, you'll spend most of your time on the oche or around one of the two tables, and these games are, as you'd expect, rather good.
For anyone familiar with Archer Maclean's previous baize 'em ups, the control method will be second nature. Direction is controlled by holding down the left mouse button. Then you can line up your shot with accuracy using a combination of the various icons and right mouse button. You control the power of your shot either by how fast you push the mouse, or by a slider on the left, which takes a bit more getting used to.
A Chelp' line shows where your shot will end up, depending on the power you've selected. For the beginner, this is something you can't afford to play without - especially against the computer. Compared to Virtual Pool 2, the controls are a little cumbersome. Using the mouse, the game lacks the control over power compared to Interplay's classic. On the other hand, you can put more thought into your shots with Cueball, and more strategy is required, especially on the snooker front.
For darts, the controls are bloody difficult to get the hang of. Your first two-player games will take an age and will be a great laugh - especially over a network or the Internet, where you can put your opponents off by sending a chat message just before they throw their darts (though this gets pretty tedious once all the Bullseye references have been exhausted). No such luck against the computer however, where it's simply a case of practise, practise, practise.
Graphically, everything in Cueballis as impressive as you'd expect when run under 3D acceleration. The little details add heaps to the ambience. The motion-captured gloves in the snooker room add character to the game and the chrome siding on the pool table is so realistic you can almost see your face in it. Shadows help create depth, and because nothing is wasted on texturing the table surface, it's easy to see where your next shot will be coming from. Compared to Virtual, the animation isn't quite as smooth, although if you haven't played that game, you'll hardly care. Anyway, all you have to do is dim the lights and things will speed up - it's good like that.
The important thing to note is that home alone, Cueball isn't one of those games that will keep you up all night. Forthat you'll also need a stack of beers and a couple of mates. But it's certainly one of those games that you could just jump in for a quick frame or two when you've had enough of Quake or Puzzle Bobble.
The computer players range from impossible to beat, to one who is pretty crap most of the time then turns on bursts of impossible fluke when losing. A complete lack of any structured competitions also makes the game feel empty after long periods of time.
What makes Cueball so good is the attention to detail. It's the best snooker game and the second-best pool game all rolled into one. If you just want a pool game then go for Virtual, if you want a little extra then Cueballis the one to spend your money on. With the darts, draughts, Dropzone and a spot of gambling chucked in, it's a game that every virtual pub fan should have. And it'll add thousands to the value of your home, virtually anyway.
Download Jimmy White's 2: Cueball
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP