Review by MontyMoleESQ
Snooker is your typical, pool hall game for most of the UK, the simple nature of the game (table and ball physics mainly) means its pretty well represented in video game form, either through Archer Maclean's Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker series (and spin offs) for the Amiga, or the World Snooker Championship games for current systems, and now this game from the PSP Minis download game range.
For the uninitiated, Snooker is a table sport, similar to pool but with 15 red balls and various colours. You use the cue ball to sink a red, then a colour until all the reds have gone, then pot each colour starting with the yellow, then green, brown, blue and pink before finishing up with the black. The ultimate aim of the game is to score more than your opponent. You have certain penalties, pocketing the cue ball, missing any of the balls you aim for, hitting any other colour when aiming for a red (or any other colour when there are no reds) all constitute a foul. Its this side of the game that International snooker gets right.
You get a basic representation of the snooker table, its competently rendered with basic textures and feels a bit cheap, sort of like an early PS2 title or more like a Midas Interactive budget range game (entirely in keeping with the budget nature of the Minis series of games). There is a title screen and a version of the BBC Snooker theme tune that plays when you start up. There are a few menus, including options menu, a help screen giving you a potted version of the rules of snooker, and a few game modes including a handy tournament and two player modes. You get a choice of opponents in 1 player mode (your default opponent is the journeyman Ray Sullivan) and after a frame (a single match for non snooker fans) it'll end. They have also gone to the trouble of simulating the score bars from the TV versions, however it ends there, there's no ref (certainly nothing like Michaela Tabb from the real game), no special tools (no spider or rest play here so you can't bridge over the balls) and no commentary which actually is more of a blessing.
Not a lot to add here, as I mentioned before there is a reasonable approximation of the BBC snooker theme tune on the title screen and a few effects for ball contacts and nothing else, there are menu options to turn off the music and effects and that's about it. I know snooker can be a bit quiet, but there is normally applauding when pulling off a difficult pot or escaping a difficult snooker (there is a heavy tactical side to snooker as well as the flashy break building), and the cheering for popular players, especially when doing the above. All this is absent from international snooker.
Not bad and not going to set the world on fire, we could charitably say that it looks like an old PS1 game, indeed we likened it to an old Midas Interactive budget game earlier and that is probably spot on. Its reasonably well presented, with a few shots of you opponents and a basic looking table to play on, everything looks reasonable with a passable stab at the BBC Snooker coverage.
Not bad, there are two camera angles, an over the shoulder view that is best turned off and the supremely useful overhead shot (you'll be doing most of your potting in this mode). The table can be rotated with left and right on the D Pad, though its some times confused when you move it about. The camera angles can be switched between with the square button, the shoulder buttons control power R raises it and L lowers and once you've lined up your perfect shot, you can press X to pot it. The analogue stick is used to line up your cursor on the cue ball itself, so if you want that perfect screw shot, or put massive amounts of side on the stick you can.
Striking the cue ball (and in fact any ball contact) actually feels like its operating under heavy gravity, they don't move much unless you ramp the power up. Also Ray and his hastily renamed chums are pathetically easy to beat in Normal mode, so god knows what they are like in easy.
Incidentally you'll get various messages while playing, which say various things such as Text book shot, or Marvellous play. They should accompany various flashy shots or 4 cushion escapes, but don't. Pull off the most mundane, run of the mill pots and they'll likely pop up with a superb.
As a nice touch to the normal game you have a variety of players ranging from Chinese guy Cliff Choi (who is obviously modelled on Ding Jun Hui ) to the Indian guy Alex Khan (though sadly I've yet to see a professional Indian player in the real game). Its not a bad touch and gives some realism as if you are playing through the lower ranks of one of the major tournaments or an out of season pro match between the lower seeds.
This is really not a bad game, its not great, but if you can get it reasonably cheap (its a port of an IPhone game), and have some affection for the game then its probably worth downloading from the PlayStation store. Bear in mind though that it really is just a bare bones Snooker game and with no real bells n whistles on, set your sights lower than this and you won't be quite so disappointed.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Product Release: International Snooker (EU, 12/22/09)
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