Review: MicroPool 2007


Steve looks at a pool game that's been evolving steadily...

Author: Gabor Fetter

Buy Link | Download / Information Link

MicroPool, available for some time on the smaller-screened S60 2nd Edition devices, has been well and truly overhauled for this, a 240 by 320 pixel version for a number of S60 3rd Edition devices - I tried it on the N95 and N93. See the download page above for the developer's quoted compatibility.

I'm a bit of computer pool freak, I'll admit, spending dozens of hours a month on Virtual Pool Mobile last year, so hopefully I can spot any strengths or weaknesses in a particular implementation. First impressions of MicroPool 2007 are very good, with a slick setup screen, giving choices between '9 ball' (where balls have to be potted in a particular order), 'US 8 ball' (where you have to stick to spots or stripes - similar to usual UK rules), 'Speed' (as it sounds, a solitaire mode to test your skill and speed) and 'Killer' (where you and the computer each get five misses allowed, after which your opponent wins). Each game can be played with a 'Light' or 'Full' ball set, depending on how full you want the table to be.

MicroPool screenshotMicroPool screenshot

'Settings' includes the choice of three coloured tables, sound effect volume and, most importantly, 'Computer strength'. This last is critical because most pool games tend to have an opponent who's simply not good enough, so that when you make a mistake you're not punished hard enough. Making the overall game too easy. With 'Computer strength' set to maximum, MicroPool 2007 is just about right, luckily, but you do have to make sure you adjust this setting before starting.

Unlike the ultra-impressive 3D tour de force that is Virtual Pool Mobile, MicroPool 2007 is a steadfastly top-down game. Not a huge problem for pool, though, as shots are fairly easy to line up from above and you always get a feel for where every ball is. There's an arty lighting effect that adds atmosphere but also reduces display contrast for balls near the corner pockets.

MicroPool screenshotMicroPool screenshot

On to gameplay itself. MicroPool 2007 excels here, with a near perfect interface, using just the d-pad for aiming and shot taking, with *, 0 and # as 'shift' keys to apply left/back/top and right spin respectively. The aiming line accelerates nicely when you've got to spin right round for the next shot, and pop-up reminders in one corner remind you of the next ball to be hit (it's easy to lose track in pool, I find!). When hit, the balls react very accurately indeed, with correct physics and table roll, although I found the animation to be at roughly half the speed of a real table, perhaps a limitation of the smartphone processor (I doubt the N93 and N95's 3D graphics co-processor is used here) and the physics engine in the game. Sound effects are first class, and I loved the way the balls disappear into the pocket and then are seen sliding towards the centre of the table's 'mechanism'.

Unlike Virtual Pool Mobile, there's a healthy degree of 'real world' randomness built into the break off shot, stopping every frame from starting like the last one, which is good. Unlike VPM, there's no career mode or progression though, each frame is totally standalone. So you get the fun of playing but no real sense of getting anywhere in the long term.

Perhaps the only flaw in the actual gameplay is that the aiming line defaults to the last direction played in, rather than snapping to the centre of a valid object ball. This slows down the aiming process quite a lot and is my only frustration with MicroPool 2007. I've told the developer this and it's under consideration for a future version, apparently.

As you'll judge from my score (79), this is certainly not the definitive pool game. But it is a decent game, is immaculately behaved under S60, with a relatively small RAM requirement and has earned itself a place on my Nokia N93. 

Steve Litchfield, AllAboutSymbian, 22 May 2007

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