Format: iPad (reviewed – version 1.3 ), iPhone – Also on: Playstation Vita, Mac
Developer: Big Head Games
I still maintain that Yahoo Pool is the greatest cue sports game of all time – seriously. It might seem strange to grant that particular accolade to a relatively primitive java app, but the accuracy afforded by the mouse, the use of a simple power gauge and easy spin options meant it was a joy to play.
Its simplicity just hasn’t been matched by many other titles, but International Snooker 2012 is one such example. It gets the basics right and offers a range of modes and options that make it the best snooker and pool game on iOS to date, even if it isn’t perfect.
The key to International Snooker 2012’s playability is the touchscreen control scheme. Shots are aimed by sliding your finger across the display, while a bar to the right of the screen sets the power. The angle at which you hit the ball and the spin that you want to apply to the shot can be set at the top of the display.
These four variables are simple to use, but allow you to perform a range of shots. The game will show you a projected trajectory of the cue ball and the target ball, but these are guides rather than a reliable prediction. Apply too little force and the ball might barely move, but use too much and chaos could erupt on the table and you might pot the incorrect ball.
First to break
Like in real life, the aim is to think a few shots ahead and take each shot with the intention of setting yourself up for the next one. Against lesser players and on easier difficulty settings, you might get away with a couple of mistakes, but you will be punished mercilessly against tougher opponents.
At least if you find yourself on the end of a century break, you can speed up proceedings by two or three times, making the waiting game far less frustrating. Occasionally though, opponents will completely lose their marbles and make the same mistake three times, causing them to concede the frame. Although you can prevent this by not making them repeat the shot, it seems a bit silly.
Career mode is the main way of playing, allowing you to play through an entire season of snooker tournaments, culminating in the World Championship. You can create your own player and rise up to the top echelons of the sport by winning ranking points at each competition.
Each event has its own unique arena and there are some nice touches, like screens separating the tables during the early rounds, before being removed for the final. However the absence of any licenses is disappointing as it would be great to be able to take on the likes of Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan in a competitive setting.
Other modes include quick match and local and online multiplayer. The game is ideally suited for portable play, so it is a shame that asynchronous multiplayer hasn’t been included, allowing friends to face off against each other in a nine frame epic whenever they have the time to play.
Visually, the game boasts a TV-style presentation with a HUD loosely based on the old BBC Sport graphics and famous referee Michaela Tabb has been enlisted to provide her voice for the game. The balls and table are nice to look at, but the developers have appeared to pay no attention to the crowd as the two same zombie-like spectators have been copied and pasted into different seats.
This contributes to a lack of atmosphere, as do the lack of physical players. Shots are taken by someone we can only assume has stolen Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.
The interface isn’t complete perfect either. A help button the left-hand side of the screen can be easily tapped while taking a shot, prompting a handy guide to the controls, but more often than not just gets in the way. There’s also the need to continuously chalk your cue. This can be solved by purchasing an auto-chalk feature in the in-game shop, but there is simply no need for it.
Items from the shop, such as new equipment, are bought using in-game credits, which are won through normal play or via in-app purchases. Credits can be used to unlock the pool modes, but it is slightly annoying that they’re not available from the start. This might be interpreted as cynical, but at least there is the option to get them without shelling out more cash.
International Snooker could do with a bit more polish and a few more licenses, but in its present form it is still the best snooker game on iOS and one of the best sports games kicking around.
With the World Snooker Championships just around the corner, it is the perfect accompaniment for lazing about on the sofa while watching the action unfold at the Crucible.