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PlayStation Vita  header logo

Hustle Kings

For: PS Vita

Sinks the black

Product: Hustle Kings | Developer: VooFoo Studios | Publisher: Sony Europe | Format: PS Vita | Genre: Pub Sports | Players: 1-8 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe
 
Hustle Kings PS Vita, thumbnail 1
Here in the UK, the most cash you’re likely to see on the edge of a pool table isn't a wad of £100 notes but a stack of 50 pence coins placed there by somebody who intends to hog the table for the whole night.

Although the cash denominations in Hustle Kings are unfamiliar to your average pub-going Brit (along with the size of the balls and pockets, if you’re being picky), the core appeal of a hard-fought match against your peers is captured perfectly in this impressively rich download-only Vita launch title.

Chalk that one up

Having one of the strongest tutorials in the genre helps get the title off to a good break.

While I’ve been playing pool on and off for years now (both real and digital), this is the first time I’ve seen a game go out of its way to not only teach you about the different spin types and the real reason for applying chalk to the cue (spoiler: it’s not just because it looks cool), but also how to do jump shots and curve the ball around obstacles.

After 20 minutes of pretty intense training it’s off to pick a game mode from the surprisingly large selection on offer. You have your standard Exhibition and Tournament modes for one-off play, Trick-shots for the more savvy hustlers, and a Career mode that enforces particular rules and settings for each match.

These rules can vary between the three main pool types on offer (US 8 and 9-ball, and the UK-esque Black Ball), and the options extend to how much guidance you’re given about where the balls will end up and the control method you’ll be able to use.

The three types of controls are graded by trickiness and vary in execution, but all use the touchscreen to pot the cue.

At the casual end of the spectrum, your only concern is how much power to apply (by pulling back the cue). Standard introduces accuracy to the mix, asking you to sweep back up in as straight a line as possible. Expert takes away all help and requires you to gauge power and accuracy by feel alone.

While the touchscreen controls aren’t exactly similar to holding a real cue, there's still an odd sense of satisfaction in slamming a ball accurately into the far pocket, thanks in no small part to the excellent sound effects that accompany each thwack.

Put up a real good fight

In terms of fundamentals, Hustle Kings clears the table.

The ball physics are, as you should expect, realistic enough to never feel like the game has cheated you out of victory, while the speed of play means that frames can - if you’re really good - be over in under a minute.

Sometimes the beginner guidelines can be a little off when you're swerving balls, which will frustrate you when you're starting out, and snooker bonuses are awarded for the most innocuous of positions (the target ball sitting in clear sight, covering the far pocket is not a snooker, Hustle Kings), but in general the game captures the rush of a good pot perfectly.

Every skilful shot - such as cushion shots or the incredibly tricky jump shot - adds Hustle Kings Credits (HKC) to your profile. You can use these to unlock fancy chrome-plated balls, new cues, and access to expensive tournaments later in your career.

The Career mode itself comes across too much like an extension of the tutorial rather than a full ‘hustle’ experience, with the game slowly removing crutches like the aiming guidelines and testing out new game types as you move through the events on offer.

The AI characters you face off against are, thankfully, not completely robotic in how they play (apart from Hard difficulty opponents, who punish you mercilessly for every slip). But there doesn’t appear to be any difference in playing style between the various hideous opponents, and this lack of character extends to the empty, eerily still environments you play in.

Bet on black

Still, playing pool on your own in real life is a pretty atmosphere-sucking enterprise, and Hustle Kings makes up for the relatively staid single-player with its wealth of multiplayer options.

Every game type you can think of, plus a few you might not know, are catered for, ranging from the head-to-head standard and hustle games (in which you bet HKC on the outcome) right through to eight-player party games like - my old college favourite - Killer.

The best aspect of the multiplayer, however, is message play, which allows you to engage in several matches simultaneously without having the other players online. The system works like a charm via PSN’s message service, and it's ideal for playing on the go (especially if you have a 3G Vita).

Even if you don’t have the fancier model, though, Hustle Kings produces a slick, satisfying game of pool that would-be hustlers from both sides of the Atlantic should put down money for.
 
Hustle Kings
Reviewer photo
Will Wilson | 23 February 2012
A great virtual recreation of pool that eases beginners in smoothly and offers up a feature-rich multiplayer mode for the experts
 
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