Version tested: PSP
World Snooker Challenge gives you two options: admit you're rubbish at snooker, or fail miserably in your attempts to prove otherwise.
Use the "aiming aid", and a line of arrows shows you the direction the ball will go when it's struck. With this on your side, all that's required is a bit of fine-tuning and a bit of thought about where to position the cue ball afterward. You can rotate the PSP in your hands to check the line, or cheat even more by using some manner of square edge to rule the trajectory, and intuition should give you a good idea of the length to go with the line. Snooker's similar to maths in some senses, particularly the bits about solving angular riddles - and particularly in the sense that people with weak maths skills often find it surprising and entertaining when they do something very clever. WCS's aiming aid is a bit like doing times-tables with a calculator. It's a shortcut to being good. And you know what? It'd be more satisfying to get there yourself.
If you could. I failed miserably when I stopped relying on the aiming aid. Really miserably. The reason isn't so much that I'm rubbish at snooker (I'm actually not awful), but more the size of the screen. Even with the aid, there will be plenty of occasions when your ball's harshly spat out of the jaws of a pocket even though your line seems perfect. The difference between success and failure is an adjustment so slight that a steel rule can't see a problem with either option. It's still satisfying to sink long shots and build up long breaks - and very hard to do so in many cases - but often it's the game failing you and not the other way around.
That said, all the tools are there for you to play well if you're meticulous enough - making sure your positioning is perfect to avoid having to play from tricky angles or lengths - so there's a counter-argument too. Basically it's this: don't get yourself into awkward positions and you won't fall foul of the technical limitations. So, just to be clear, I'm not saying WSC is bad because really difficult stuff is really difficult - even if it is more its fault than mine. I'm merely pointing it out.
That certainly isn't a nine on the bottom of the review though, so let's continue.
The rewards for persistence are a bit on the weak side. The first one or two unlockable videos - showing off amazing shots played under the toughest tournament conditions by professional snooker players - are awe-inspiring. But having the player unlock new locations, for instance, is a dull idea. A random snooker hall pops up and it's: "You have unlocked Brighton!" That's not just tiresome; it implies that someone's untied my boss. Meanwhile, the trick-shot mode can't compete with TV or real life, and, actually, it can't really compete with itself either. The tricks are nice ideas, but the game happily shows them to you before you've had a go. From thereon the only challenge is judging the precise pixel to aim at, and then doing it again and again until it works. Of course it was fun when John Virgo got Joe Public to do it on Big Break; Joe Public wasn't doing it with John Virgo's hands.
Moreover, can I be bothered to do the washing up? Is my deadline today or tomorrow? Have I paid my council tax this month? More importantly, how long can I balance a cushion over my head on the base of my left foot, and can I pass it from foot to foot without dropping it? Is it Thursday or Friday? Why don't my socks match? Why does it matter if socks match anyway? What was that girl's name - the one I met in Bath? Gah.
If there's something I love about World Snooker Challenge, it's that it's given me the gift of time. Time! Time to think of jokes and people I haven't seen for a while; time to remember chores and think of a suitable time to complete them; time to time the time so I can put numbers in my review. Between making me wait for the game screen to load, making me wait for my opponent to finish his break (waiting, each time, for the computer to generate a suitable outcome), waiting for my opponent's replays to finish, waiting for the referee to replace the cue ball, waiting for my own shots to play out, waiting for the menus to load, and waiting for the game to notice I've finished, I've got more time than I know what to do with, and for me that's very rare. Clearly, for me, WSC is A Good Thing.
Ah, but, you're not after the gift of time; you're after a way to fill time. Playing WCS involves lots of sitting around waiting for things to happen, and, while that's wonderful for me, it doesn't really get you anywhere, and it's your needs I'm being paid to consider.
World Snooker Challenge 2005 is about waiting and watching more than it is about playing snooker or thinking about how to play snooker. I spent more time thinking outside the game than I did actually playing it, and when I was playing I was torn between being very bad and occasionally fluking something, and pretending to be very good and then falling foul of some imperceptible flaw. You can't say too many nasty things about the game's understanding of physics and ball behaviour, nor the skill of the professional players, which is keenly judged, but since I can't say I had too much fun playing it I can hardly speak favourably of the experience on the whole. Your time seems split between feeling hacked off and waiting around for ages - and that time won't feel like much of a gift if it cost £34.99 to begin with.
6 / 10