Gameloft, mostly known for creating cell phone/mobile games, has recently made the jump to WiiWare. Midnight Pool, currently one of four available WiiWare titles, is an agreeable title for 800 Wii Points ($8).
This title has a similar atmosphere as Block Breaker Deluxe, another Gameloft WiiWare title. With a neon glow lighting effect coming from everything and a simple art style, this title crosses the line between typical downloadable game and full retail Wii title. Even though the game doesn’t give you a ton of options to choose from, downloaders will still feel like they are purchasing a complete game.
The game’s initial splash page contains the Story Mode, Arcade Mode along with a tutorial option. The tutorial is a fast and easy read, composed of several pages displaying the controller layout and how to play. There are three main gameplay options to choose from in the Arcade mode: US 8-ball, UK 8-ball, and 9-ball. There is also a challenge/trick mode option, revolving around sinking balls by using some type of special shot.
Story Mode, while quite generic, is still entertaining. Each playable character is horribly voice acted and is a mock-up of popular celebrities. There is the hick cop Tom Cruise rip-off, a Lucy Liu look-a-like, a P. Diddy clone and a few more unlockable characters. Selecting a character doesn’t really change the way the Story Mode is played; it just gives the player an on screen avatar.
Looking pass the cheap character design, this game is quite the solid pool experience. In fact, this is probably the best pool game on Wii to date, even beating out Wii Play’s pool mini game. Solely using the wiimote, the player has a lot of control. The d-pad is used line up shots to the pixel of your choosing. The camera can even zoom out to a straight overhead view to looking right behind the cue ball and everything in between. The “1” button allows the player to put spin and adjust the angle of each shot and the “A” button is used to quickly move the aiming cursor around. The “+” and “-“ buttons also highlight the balls and adjust perspective, making it easier to distinguish which balls should be hit next. It should be noted that this game does not use the nunchuk.
Once the “B” button is tapped, the player then thrusts the wiimote toward the screen, as if shooting a real pool stick. Unfortunately, it took me quite a while to realize that the game only recognizes the forward thrust motion. There is no need to pull the wiimote back first. Not pulling back eliminates some the realism in the control scheme, and the tutorial fails to clearly mention to only thrust forward, not pull back. The speed of the forward thrust also determines how hard the cue ball is hit. It might take a couple games, but the control scheme is easy enough for anyone to pick up and play.
For the most part, the ball physics are pretty accurate. On occasion, however, there are instances where the balls seem a little too “floaty,” like they seem to roll a little more than they should. There is also the occasional pocket detection hiccup, where balls seem to enter the hole a little prematurely. But these are minor instances and do not hinder gameplay in a strong way.
The game does retain a good sense of balance when competing against computer AI opponents. Each game will never be too hard or too easy. Like human players, mistakes are made and the computer will never really string together more than three balls in a row, giving the player a solid chance each game. This keeps frustration levels to a minimum, although this is really not the case with the challenge options. These trick shots require nothing but perfection. Depending on how to look at this mode, it will either highly entertain or highly frustrate.
Is Midnight Pool a pool genre changing experience? Definitely, not. Is Midnight Pool an enjoyable title? Absolutely. You will be hard pressed to find a better pool experience on the Wii, especially with an $8 price tag. Perhaps this game’s biggest flaw is the lack of online play, but the two player on the same console mode is a decent multiplayer experience. The story mode may be on the cheesier side, but players will be staying for the gameplay and not the story line anyway. But once you get the hang of thrusting the wiimote (do not pull back), Midnight Pool is great casual game experience. If you want to try before you buy, search the internet for free Flash based versions.
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