Pool Pro Online 3 iPhone Review

When Namco held an event last week at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, we expected big surprises like Splatterhouse and new a Dragon Ball. Instead, we were treated to a party celebrating the company's release of a pool game for the iPhone called Pool Pro Online 3. While it was mildly disappointing that we couldn't bash mutant heads or throw fireballs with Goku, the get-together wasn't for nothing. This is a splendid pool game.

There are no genuine surprises, just pool that's been delicately retooled to play just like the real deal. You'll hop into a variety of matches, be it 8-ball, 9-ball or snooker, and utilize the simple touch-screen controls to line up your shots and, if you're good enough, run the table. Pool Pro gives you the option to play against CPU opponents, but the best option is to hook up with friends. The game includes a Hot Seat mode, where you pass around the system to whoever's turn it is. If you prefer something more direct, the game also supports online play against others around the world. Online chat is also included, in case you feel like taunting. You can even play against those shooting the lights out with the PC version or on the iPad (when it comes out next month). This kind of compatibility, along with a lobby full of players (from the times we checked), give Pool Pro lasting replayability.

In addition, the physics are exquisite, as you fine tune your shots, set up your stick position and even line up where you're aiming with guiding lines. One thing you must understand, though, is that like previous pool games, these lines can make the game incredibly easy. All you need to do is point and shoot, and 99.9 percent of the time, you'll make it. If you want to get the most from your experience, try shutting them off.

Along with online play, Pool Pro Online 3 also comes with other goodies. You can see how you measure up via leaderboard, earn Achievements that you can show to the rest of the world (we love the "Fat Cat" one) and purchase new equipment from the virtual store, including new table skins (USA flag, for the win!) and pool sticks. Granted, at the end of the day, the game you're playing is still the same, but the fact that you can customize the set-up however you please is golden.

Pool Pro Online 3 won't win any awards in the looks department, as there isn't anything here that stands out over other pool games. That said, Namco still understood and implemented ball physics almost perfectly. Not once did we run into a shot where the ball didn't behave as it would in real life. On top of that, the interface is easy to read, so you can always keep an eye on your stick and where you're aiming. (No poolroom smoke getting in the way.) The background music is pleasant (if somewhat forgettable) and the sound effects do what's necessary, with clacking balls.

If you appreciate the sport like we do, download Pool Pro Online 3. This game is definitely a must buy, with sharp gameplay, a solid presentation and plenty of options online and off. Rack 'em!

What's Hot: Enjoyable gameplay, visuals and music capture the atmosphere of playing pool, unlockable Achievements (along with table felts and equipment), you can play online against iPhone, PC and iPad owners.

What's Not: Doesn't offer anything tremendously different from other pool games (like the cheaper Virtual Pool), guiding lines make it too easy to nail shots.

4/5