Review - pocket pool courtesy of Codemasters. A great game for passing time
Pro Pool is a very good pool game. It's about as complete and satisfying an interpretation as the GameBoy Color could hope to offer. Viewed from overhead, the idea is obviously to pot the balls in a specific order. The first disappointment here is that unless you actually know how to play pool in real life, the first few minutes will be spent guessing which ball is next in the sequence. There are no numerals on the balls to illustrate the order, and there are no actual indicators anywhere onscreen. Thankfully playing a shot is a lot simpler. You position your cue, and then you draw a dotted line from the position of your cue toward the ball you wish to hit. The length of the line is what determines the speed at which the cue ball moves. Although simplistic, thanks to the precise physics, this approach is just as useful as anything high-end PC simulations can offer. The physics are a true achievement; they mimic real life so thoroughly. If you play a ball against a cushion, it rebounds exactly as you'd expect, and it's clear a lot of tweaking has gone in to finely tuning this. Similarly, if you add any sort of spin to the ball, the results are as you would expect.
There is a decent selection of games on offer, including US or English 8-ball, 9-ball, straight, three-ball, six-ball, killer or speed. The practice mode makes up the rest, and although it doesn't (rather disappointingly) allow you to position the cue ball and other balls as you'd like, to really help you practice, there are no penalties imposed upon you for mis-cueing, so improvement is swift and the atmosphere comfortable. Other big plus points in the game's favour are its instant replay function (with slow, normal and fast motion options) and its even more impressive autosave feature. If you power off and then turn the machine on again, you can expect to find the game saved at your last shot, presumably as some sort of safety feature in case you run out of batteries. Not even most console titles are this thoughtful. When playing I did occasionally wish that there were even more variation in the modes available. You can change the colour of the table and other silly options, but outside the fairly standard pool formula there's little to retain your interest. I was hardly expecting a hidden Doom-style subgame, but some sort of trickshot theatre, or a way of creating your own pool configurations (imagine setting up five balls in a row and a red at the far end and giving yourself an objective of finding the right angle to rebound back and forth down the table to hit it). There's a lot of scope for fun with such a closed format. On the PC or on a console, sure, you're in a position where you are expected to dazzle with pretty visuals and devious AI, but on the GameBoy your audience expects to be amused and kept occupied, not amazed.
Pro Pool is instantly accessible and enjoyable for several hours at a time. If you're on a long car journey or just a little bored waiting for your favourite show to come on the tele, it's the sort of game you can fire up for a quick five minutes and be happily occupied. If only there were a slightly wider berth of customisable options, it would be even more impressive.