Hustle Kings (PlayStation Vita)
Developer: VooFoo Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
To be released: TBA
Though I’ve always found pool enjoyable, I know the real world game is not for everyone. Still, I’ve come across a lot of people that have enjoyed playing billiards videogames even if they had never picked up a pool cue in their life, probably because pool is an incredibly simple game with mechanics that lend themselves to videogame adaptations. You don’t have to be a pool hall inhabiting grifter to have some fun with Hustle Kings.
The Vita version of Hustle Kings allows you to mix the original, button-based system with the new touch capabilities and I found the option to use both helpful. While I lined up the majority of my shots with the analog stick, I found aiming shots with the touch controls to be more precise and pain free in some situations. A cue ball icon at the bottom left of the screen also made it easy to choose where I wanted to hit the ball in order to put spin on it. In terms of actual shooting, there are a couple different methods. The simplest is a “pinball” style that simply requires you to drag the cue back and let it fly, while there is also an accurate, one to one style that requires you to pull back and push the cue forward with the touchscreen and judges the strength of the shot based on your movement.
As I mentioned, Hustle Kings is a deep game. There is a variety of pool games, many of which I’ve never even heard of: 8-ball, 9-ball, black ball, killer, cutthroat, 3-ball, and continuous. There is also a career mode and an offline tournament mode where you can build your skills and accumulate “hustle points,” which can be wagered against other players. In addition to the standard games modes, there are a few other distractions, like a collection of trick shot tables that are incredibly challenging to clear.
The game also affords a nice level of customization. Difficulty, shooting style, trajectory paths and all sorts of other things can be turned on or off or adjusted in some way prior to starting a game. You can even take a picture with the Vita’s camera and quickly set it as your avatar, change the cloth color on the table or take a picture that gets superimposed over the table, all of which are nice, little touches.
Hustle Kings also boasts impressive attention to detail. The game’s visuals are great and the physics do well to recreate a faithful billiards experience that looks impressively fluid while in motion. The balls look absolutely fantastic and, if you zoom in and look at them closely on the table, you can even see the reflection of the surrounding bar in the balls. The lighting it quite nice too.
As pool is a game of turns, multiple people (the exact number depending on how many the game mode calls for) can play on one system, in addition to online play. Owners of the Vita version of Hustle Kings will also be able to play with PS3 users, which is a great move and should ensure that there is already a decent community to play with when the game launches -- and I’m sure PS3 users wouldn’t mind an injection of lifeblood from a new group of people picking the game up. The option to wager accumulated “hustle points” gives online play some added tension, especially if you want to be a high roller.
One other rather cool component to the Vita’s multiplayer is the ability to play against friends without being constantly connected to the Internet. Playing on a handheld device, a lot of people playing Hustle Kings on the Vita might not have a consistently stable Internet connection, so the game can effectively send “turns” taken back and forth between two people playing, almost akin to how people play chess by mail, though obviously much more instant.
Hustle Kings is definitely the deepest billiards game I’ve played and the mechanics are strong enough to provide some entertainment for those who might not be fans of the real life game. Most exciting has to be the cross-platform play and other multiplayer elements, as I presume most people playing the game will eventually want the challenge of going toe to toe with another player. Perhaps niche, Hustle Kings looks like it will be a solid title and probably a must have for fans of billiards.