A single-player pool game, Pool Ninja is comprised of challenges that, among other things, teach you cool lingo like “pot”. Yeah, I didn’t know that one, which gives you a fair idea of my vast pool hall experience. Therefore, it’s most notable that Pool Ninja creates the compelling ilusion that I can play pool.
Early challenges task you with potting a pattern of red balls, while later challenges incorporate yellow balls – that can be struck but not potted – and an eight ball that cannot be touched. All challenges are time-driven, and while it doesn’t appear that you can run out of time the goal-oriented will want to move quickly. You are awarded a gold, silver or bronze shuriken (or none at all, slowpoke) depending on your time, and each level start screen shows your best time as well as the world’s best time for each level.
There are twenty easy, medium and hard levels each and for the last there were levels that took me a dozen tries to complete, nevermind well enough to earn a shuriken. Armed with your pool cue the controls allow you to line up your shot, set the spin, tweak the power and finally take the shot. A hashed line shows the ball’s trajectory, though only to a certain point. I did not make much use of the spin feature, since my now apparent pool prowess requires only the most basic of tools (yes, the spin was often one variable too many for my liking).
Set in what appears to be a Japanese home, the greatest graphical attention is given to the table’s felt and wear patterns. Otherwise, the place is pristine, the sort of meticulous that only ninja can achieve. Presumably the ninja are behind the fiendishly crafty challenges, and – since they are ninja – we neer see them. Sound is a little spare (I ended up playing my own music) and the balls aren’t potted so much as vanished when they reach the pocket, but those are the only aesthetic nits to pick.
More generally frustrating is the occasional shot that seems to require you to guess where the hole is. This happens when the shot is lined up at such an angle that no amount of tilting or zooming out can bring both the balls and pocket into view. Though my experience is limited, I’m confident this problem doesn’t crop up in real life, but if it should I am now rather accomplished at blind pool. Which I guess puts me one step closer to ninja, lending a certain credibility to the app title.
The game uses the Plus+ Network allowing you to issue challenges to friends and track the leaderboards and awards for the game. Many of the awards for Pool Ninja are time-driven, reinforcing the shurikan ratings. For example, completing Medium Challege 17 in 40 seconds or less nets you an award worth 25 points, while completing all hard challenges in 25 minutes or less gets you 50.
Pool Ninja is hanging out at that magical .99 (59p) price point, and handily makes its worth known in spite of the minor gripes over blind shots. Of course, with a name like “Pool Ninja” I can’t help but wish that the gimmick was carried further than the setting and the shuriken. How are pirates at billiards, anyhow?
Review copy provided by publisher.