Ten Green Bottles Sitting on the Wall

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You begin the game in a classy looking hallway with two doors, your accompanied by some pleasant classical music and are free to browse though the past high scores proudly displayed on the walls. You can choose to navigate around the hall using the directional buttons, or choose your door using a menu system. It feels a bit odd walking round a non-violent game in the Quake style first person mode, but it does serve to make the rooms feel a little more tactile and realistic. The left door takes you to the pool room, a garishly American themed parlour complete with an authentic (and playable) Wurlitzer style jukebox, arcade machine, slot machine and of course a chrome edged pool table. The atmosphere is perfect with a bar along one wall and plenty of baseball memorabilia scattered around the pubs, and a basketball game viewable live on the telly. You can have a quick blast of the Dropzone arcade game, which is a rather crude defender clone from the 80's or chose to blow some virtual cash on the one armed bandit, and while these sub-games are fun for a while, and do offer a little variety from playing with the balls they don't really provide much lasting fun or enhancement to the main game. It's a shame the developers didn't link progress of these games into the main game, perhaps unlocking some new opponents for pool by getting a great Dropzone score, or new tunes on the jukebox by earning money on the slot machine. The real purpose of the room is the Pool table. Pool is great fun, not too stressful, easy rules and pockets like the channel tunnel. It's a perfect introduction to the game mechanics, and far easier than the trickier snooker table. The one player game lets you take on a series of opponents of increasing difficulty ending in a showdown with the super skilled Mr White himself. Whoever you are playing, the opponent is represented in the room as a ghostly pair of disembodied white gloves that constantly float around the table and while this is less obstructive than having a full sized player model filling your screen, it's a shame that all the opponents are depicted in the same fashion. The vitally important ball and table physics are convincing, and with the freely movable view down the cue it only takes a little while to get used to the way you place your shot. Controls using the Dreamcast controller do seem daunting at first, with some options quite a few presses away, soon you find however that your most used features such as shot strength and spin are easily accessible and easy to use. There's a number of different pool variants to choose from, with American and British rules and eight or nine ball configurations. The room and the table are visually impressive, the textures are extremely detailed and the ball models are nicely shaded and light-sourced giving them a nice solid look. It's unfortunate that the frame rates so poor though, a quick touch of the joystick in free look mode has the game engine struggling to keep up at a choppy and jerky low frame rate. It's not bad enough to interfere with play, but it's an irritation nonetheless. Moving along through the hallway to the snooker room, your presented with a more cultured environment, with a grandfather clock, a roaring log fire and soothing classical music. Diversions in this room include a very competent, playable draughts game and a great implementation of darts, both will take a fair amount of skill to master so offer more of a challenge than the pool room offerings. The large snooker table dominates the centre of the room, and its on this monster that you can take on another series of computer controlled players in the more complex game of snooker. The snooker is considerably more difficult than the pool, with the larger table and smaller pockets serving to make those long shots very tricky. The computer controlled opponents don't seem to suffer too much, with even the inept sounding Clumsy Colin making tasty breaks into the double figures. The pool hall is definitely the place to warm up and hone your skills before moving into the more challenging snooker room. Everything's been put together into an extremely likeable and authentic package, you can almost smell the chalk as you move your virtual player around the green felt of the tables, with the sounds of the balls connecting and sinking into pockets has been carefully crafted for full effect. There's plenty of neat touches too, like a book on the bar in the pool room containing pictures of the games development like a kind of virtual scrapbook, there's obviously a lot of love and attention that has been bestowed on this title. It's a great game for when you've got company too, my mates weren't eagerly flocking around my lair in the way they used to when I had a real table, but we all had a blast with the pool mode, although we found the Snooker a little too tricky for casual play.

Conclusion

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Jimmy White's 2: Cueball is a highly polished and playable snooker and pool simulator. Although that said, it does seem a little odd to be playing a game on your Dreamcast that you could just as easily be playing down the pub with some buddies. Single player gets old quickly unless your utterly fanatical about snooker or pool, but multi-player is a lot more fun. Its nothing like as good as the real thing of course, but with some mates, some beers and some heavy farting, its close.

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