"Cool Pool is now Maximum Pool!"
That quote comes directly from Sierra and it should be taken
literally folks, because Cool Pool is really now Maximum Pool. The
name has been changed, but the game remains the same, which
isn't necessarily a bad thing considering Cool Pool was a very
solid billiards title to begin with. Well, I shouldn't say it's entirely
the same. Sierra has introduced a few new additions to the mix,
including new tables/games and features, so let's rack 'em up and
find out if Maximum Pool can play with the best of them.
Owners of Cool Pool will recognize many of the traditional tables
available in Maximum Pool: Eight Ball, Nine Ball, Rotation,
Cutthroat, Rotation, and Basic Pocket Billiards. Two new tables
have been added to the classic collection including Snooker and
Carom, a popular European variation played with just three balls
on a table without pockets. If any of these games seem foreign to
you, Sierra has made sure Maximum Pool is as user-friendly as
possible by including a help section with the rules of play for each
game along with a series of tips that can be easily accessed.
Besides the traditional tables, Sierra has also thrown in 5
over-the-top variations that feature wacky gimmicks on standard or
crazy tables. They include: Chameleon Ball, Poker, Rocket Ball, 24
Cents and Mad Bomber. Just to give you an idea what these
creations consist of, let's take Poker for example. The object of the
Poker table is to knock down pool balls depicting images of
different cards to form your poker hand. The player with the best
hand is the winner. Some of the balls are mystery balls, so you
won't know which card they represent until after the game is
finished. Traditionalists probably won't adhere to these
incarnations, but they're refreshing games that at least might
capture the interest of younger gamers.
One of the areas Maximum Pool improves upon Cool Pool is the
skill level of the computer opponents. There are three skill levels
including Novice, Intermediate and Expert, a difficulty level that is
sure to challenge even the best of the pool sharks. On the lower
two skill levels, a number of settings become available including
the ability to auto-aim for balls as well as an indicator displaying
the line your will take pending the angle of you cue stick. These
settings make things much easier for beginners learning the
metalwork of the game of pool. As with Cool Pool, the power of
the shot is determined by swinging your mouse in the manner you
would a pool cue. The good news is it doesn't take accuracy into
effect, just power.
The visuals in Maximum Pool aren't spectacular by any means, but
they get the job done. The menus are rather bland but the tables
and balls themselves look realistic and the ball physics are
excellent. Maximum Pool doesn't bring the ambiance of a real
pool hall quite like Interplay's Virtual Pool series, but the
atmosphere is solid enough to play a few games of pool. The
audio is much like the visuals, simple but effective. The usual
effects can be heard such as the cue hitting the ball and such.
Each of the five video-captured opponents (including Buddy the
dog) will often ridicule you with taunts as you play, but they can
become repetitive pretty fast.
Once you get tired of playing against computer opponents, you
can venture online to play against opponents over the Internet.
Maximum Pool conveniently dumps you onto a server where you
can matchmake with other owners of the game. Sierra has devised
Maximum Pool so that it is compatible with Cool Pool, so you can
play against owners of either Cool Pool or Maximum Pool. Of
course, owners of Cool Pool won't be able to play the variations
that are only found in Maximum Pool such as Snooker and Carom.
It's not quite up to the level of Interplay's Virtual Pool series, but
Maximum Pool more than holds it's own. If you already purchased
Cool Pool, you're basically looking at two new classic games and
five fantasy tables as your upgrade, not to mention minor tweaks
in the artificial intelligence. If you're a traditionalist, those five
tables might not appeal to you at all, which means there's not
much in terms of new additions. In that respect, it's probably not
worth the extra money. If you don't already own Cool Pool though,
Maximum Pool is a solid game of billiards.