|System: PS3 (PSN)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: VooFoo Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 28, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
Whether you're a casual gamer or consider yourself part of the "hardcore," most of us have played our share of video-game pool. Not every take on virtual billiards has hit the mark, but it can be quite a bit of fun when done right. Sony now takes a stab at bringing the classic pastime to the Playstation Network with the help of VooFoo Studios, and we're chalking up our cue for some serious competition.
Hustle Kings is, without a doubt, a fairly hefty package, offering players everything from a career mode and quick-play options, to tournament play and online multiplayer. The variety of billiard games is robust, and the gameplay systems are surprisingly deep for a $10 downloadable game.
Upon loading up Hustle Kings for the first time, you can opt to run through a series of tutorial levels, and it's highly recommended. The game doesn't have a tremendously steep learning curve, but there's definitely some complexity in terms of control. If you take your time with shots and make smart use of the tools at hand, however, this game will have you feeling like a pro in no time.
When it comes to single player, there's no story here. The career mode simply sets you up against a selection of other sticks in four different difficulty ranks. It's a great way to acclimate yourself with the gameplay mechanics, as well as earn Hustle King Cash (HKC). Additionally, there's Exhibition (quick play), Tournament, Trick Shots, and Bonus Games. All of the various offline options are well thought out and entertaining, and when it comes to variety, Hustle Kings offers ample opportunities to prove your mettle.
Local multiplayer will allow you to play with up to 16 players - either human or A.I.-controlled - though it took us a while to figure out how to set things up properly. The gameplay is great, but the options aren't completely intuitive. Additionally, players will have to share one controller, and since the game only allows for one career profile, the HKC earned by other players is completely without value.
Minor quibbles aside, if you're simply looking for some relaxing private time with a good game of pool, Hustle Kings will not disappoint. The controls feel great, make sense, and the gameplay is completely rewarding. You kind of have to push down hard on the circle button to fine-tune shots properly, but overall the game construction is top shelf.
What makes Hustle Kings' brand of billiards so enjoyable is that most of the guess work has been taken out of the equation. You'll point your cue with the left analog stick, direct spin on a ball with the right stick, and adjust the power of shots with the triggers. From the very start, the game will teach you how to pull off amazing swerve and jump shots, utilizing a system of lines and camera angles to place balls precisely where you want them. Pulling back on the analog stick and then pushing forward when shooting gives you almost the same satisfaction of following through in a real game of pool.
When you're ready to hustle, you can take your game online and compete against Playstation Network's finest. Once logged onto the network, the experience is fairly seamless. The Quick Match option will set you up with another random player, or you can sift through a selection of player-created rooms. If you don't like what you find, you can create your own room with your own rules. There are seven different games of pool to choose from, and three methods in which to play them: practice, ranked, or hustle.