Simple DS Series Volume 2: The Billiards
Chalk up that cue for one mean game of pool.
Senor Cha Cha doesn't cry very much, but allow him to reveal to you one thing he does weep over: good games that would've been great...no, no...super fantastic had the developers not wasted the hardware's potential. Unfortunately, such is the case with D3 Publisher's import and budget friendly Nintendo DS title, Simple DS Series Volume 2: The Billiards. Developer Agenda had the ball in its own court and blew the lay up. Lucky for them, they still won the game.
Before I get into what holds this game back I would like to thank Agenda for designing a DS gambling game that doesn't involve cards, because as I stare at the system's release schedule (and as my brother plays Crave's World Championship Poker), I can see at least two more card games on the horizon and that just frustrates the hell out of me because of the total lack of variety. I mean, there are so many bar games that belong on the DS! I want to see them!
Anyway, so yeah! The Billiards is a pool simulator for the Nintendo DS that allows you to play several types of games such as 9Ball, 8Ball, Cut Throat, and 5-9, among other variations, and you can even wirelessly compete against up to 3 other people using a single copy of the game! You can also bet play money for each of your shots, which has already led to a few "pretend" fights between me and my little bro.
When I first popped this game into my DS I expected some corny 2D graphics, but to my surprise, The Billiards is powered by a slick 3D engine. The backgrounds are uninteresting and in large part a mess (just a bar and some other drab locations), but the actual table and ball physics are pretty sweet. Agenda even provides the following two camera views: a 3D one that can be scaled back and one that's 2D, both of which can be swapped between the DS' two screens. This way, you can really show off your geometry skills. You can even scribble messages onto the bottom screen that'll get beamed to your opponents' systems, so you can really anger the other players or show them the best way to approach their next shot.
Ok, so here's why this game pisses me off. It's not because of its catchy music (oh so catchy) but rather the wasted opportunity to really take advantage of the DS' touch screen. You can use the stylus to move your pool cue around so you can get the perfect angle on your shot, but in order to actually hit the white ball you need to either press A or tap the Shot option on the screen. After doing that, a Shot Meter appears that lets you determine how hard you want to strike the ball, and after you figure that out you press A again.
Now allow this to sink in for a bit. How completely awesome would it have been if you could drag the cue with the stylus, move it back, and then with a flick of the wrist slash the screen and hit the ball that way? I mean come on Agenda! In Sega's Feel the Magic, the game/DS is able to figure out whether we're rubbing the screen fast or slow, so why couldn't this game's developers do the same %$^$* thing? My mind is literally boggled because of this, as in my brain is actually a jumbled collection of pieces that are in a complete and utter disarray. I mean I'm no programming genius, but given my gameplay experience with the DS this control scheme should be possible.
Because of Agenda's failure to implement these controls the game just feels very unnatural. It's like, ok, so I can move my cue around with the stylus, but then to hit the ball I need to remove the stylus from the touch screen and press A two times. It doesn't keep the game from being fun (on the contrary), but it does plant images into my head of what could've been.
Of course, I awarded The Billiards a 3 out of 5 for a reason, that reason being it plays a mean game of pool. Even with its controls it's still a cool game, and anyone who likes pool or wants to learn how to play should purchase it. There is Japanese text, but there's also a ton of English so navigating around and figuring out what to do is extremely easy. Unfortunately, the only bummer is you won't be able to read the options that the game presents to you whenever you're actually placing bets (providing you cannot read Japanese, anyway). However, don't let the language barrier keep you from importing this game. Not only is a lot of fun, but it's one of the cheaper DS titles on the market. As for Agenda, you guys did a fantastic job, but next time, exploit the touch screen!
What's Hot: It plays a mean game of pool... and it's not poker!
What's Not: The control scheme could have been so much more.