Back in the early 90s my dad purchased Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker, after a solid weekend playing it he remarked: “See that’s the thing, how can you top this? When it comes to simulating pool and snooker, it’s pretty much perfect”. Obvious point first, yes my dad was significantly uninformed about the graphical revolution coming after the 16-bit generation. But you can’t really say much has been done to significantly change what the core element of a pool or snooker simulation involves: It’s all about the physics, and the rest is window dressing. That window dressing can be rather lovely though, and can completely set the mood of a title. It’s a point that Voo Foo Studios absolutely nails in Hustle Kings on PS3 and Vita.
HK originally came out in 2009 on the PlayStation 3. It was then repurposed earlier this year for the PS Vita. HK on the Vita is a very different experience to that of the PS3 original. The touch-screen controls being the most obvious renovation. Power and accuracy are now measured with the stroke of a finger down the right side of the screen, which is as equally satisfying as it is accurate. To master the new control scheme, a comprehensive tutorial guides the player in shot setup, spin, plants and so on. Planning and executing a shot, then seeing the cue ball roll into the exact area you wanted, triggers that sit-back-arms-folded ‘I meant that’ satisfaction that all gamers can relate to. HK also allows replays to be saved, meaning those moments can be shared with others at a later date (the PS3 version allows for YouTube sharing of clips, for maximum show-off merit).
There’s about as much variety as a pool game can offer here, with a multitude of different rule sets to play with. From 9-ball to cut throat and 3-ball, a favourite will soon be discovered and played to death. The game’s career mode takes in every one of these different versions of pool as you try to make it to the rank of undisputed ‘Hustle King’. It’s a good, structured mode that allows the player to take in every style of play against opponents who consistently improve in skill.
Once the basics are nailed, and a chunk of career mode taken care of, it’ll be time to take on the rest of the world in the various online modes that HK provides. Players can find a quick match or create a room for a standard match. Every rule type can be tailored to your liking to find the ideal match. The only problem is that with such a small user base, finding another Vita-owning Huste King player can be a bit of a lottery. Arranging games with other friends was the only way I was able to play online. When I did get on though, the game ran without a hitch.
The game’s ‘Message Play’ feature goes a little way to help with the lack of players online at any one time. Much like play-by-mail chess, players can log on to play their shot then wait on their opponent’s turn. It’s a surprisingly pleasing way to play, especially with friends who are in different time zones. If you can get a like-minded opponent, then ‘Message Play’ will become part of your gaming routine.
Hustle Kings has placed itself as one of the best value for money packages available on the Vita. There isn’t a taste that is not catered to in its myriad of options, the visuals show off the Vita’s OLED screen nicely, and the online challenges and career mode will make it a game that can be dipped in and out of regularly. One of the best pool games created, and arguably the top downloadable Vita title available.