Tom Cruise eat your heart out!
Hustle Kings arrived on the PlayStation Vita as a somewhat of a bonus for me. I originally purchased the PlayStation 3 version, obviously at that time there was no such talk about Sony’s vision of cross-play or cross-buy. As I was eligible to own the Vita version for free I downloaded it as quick as possible, what I found out after playing this version for a short period of time is that not only is the game better suited for play on the Vita but it’s also a lot more enjoyable.
Hustle Kings is a pretty simple game in its nature, it is based on pool after all but what surfaces after you’ve played for a little while is a deep and rewarding version of pool and snooker (if you have the Snooker DLC) not found on any other platform. Sure pool games are ten a penny on just about every other system since time began including the trendy ios and Android operating systems but not many come close to the polish and refinement of VooFoo Studios effort.
The game features a robust career mode as well as bonus games and challenges, tournaments, trick shots, online and offline vs. modes it also has some pretty nifty DLC in the form of a snooker add on and some crazy shaped pool tables.
The career mode is nicely set out into eight separate leagues each one increasing in difficulty. Each league then consists of various games based on trick shots, vs. matches and bonus games that have a slight twist to your average pool game. As you progress you’re awarded “HKC” (Hustle Kings credits) for your wins which is the games in built credit system, depending on what game type or how difficult the challenge was you’re awarded different amounts of credits. The difficult part about entering games in the career mode is that you have to pay to enter, this is not a bad thing to start with as you’ll probably win most of your matches, stacking up your earnings as you go. Once you progress to later leagues the difficulty really ramps up which in turn means winning will be less frequent. This can then cause a problem as you won’t have enough money to enter matches that progress you to the next match or league. You then have to go back and play a match you’ve already unlocked with a lower entrance fee to earn more credits just to be able to enter and take on the original challenge.
This can be frustrating to a certain extent because if you come up against a particular nasty individual that has laser accurate shots with a high entrance fee it means you then have to keep playing some lower ranked matches, winning those and then trying your luck again with the match that you needed to win to progress your career in the first place. I suppose it can make you pick your matches carefully and spend your HK credits wisely but sometimes you don’t even get to the table to even have a chance of winning the match. Super players in the career mode will just break off and clear the table in one sitting. You’re then left scratching your head as to what just happened and needing another 150,000 credits to try again.
This is why the career mode is a double edged sword, sometimes it can be very rewarding and present a nice challenge, other times you’re just a passenger while the computer AI renders your match pointless and they clear the whole table while you go off and make a cup of tea.
Thankfully there are plenty of other modes to get stuck into if you’re struggling with the career mode. All have plenty of options and tweaks to set the games difficulty and type to best suit your needs and skill level. Character unlocks and an online shop to purchase pool cues, special chalks and the like make spending your hard earned credits all the more easier. The game sure has plenty of content and modes to keep even the most hardened player busy, a Platinum trophy here won’t be easy.
When actually playing the game your presented with some basic options on how you want to play, apart from your typical arena choice, table colour and game type your presented with three main control options, each one more difficult than the last. With the easy shot mode all you need to do is pull back on a meter on the touch screen to a certain level that you think is right, let go and the shot will be taken. The next level is similar but you also have to push forward to execute the shot. It doesn’t matter how hard you push forward though as the shot strength will be gauged on how far you pulled back. Then finally we have the hard setting which means everything is manual from the pull back to the forward stroke to how straight you move your fingers up and down the cue. This mode, as well as been difficult also has the most fluid and natural feeling shot method in the game. Pull back a little and push forward fast and the ball will react totally different to pulling back fast and stroking forward slowly, even at the same strengths. Take into effect how straight you move your fingers back and forward, add some side spin, follow through or screw back and you can basically hit any shot and place the ball anywhere on the table with ease (if your good enough that is).
Make no mistake the hard mode is hard to master but it’s also the most satisfying. Pull a great shot off and place the ball where you intended, lining up perfect for the next shot really does feel great and almost uncannily like real pool or snooker. I did play a bit of snooker in my younger days and the same physics apply in Hustle Kings as they do in real life.
In fact you could go as far and say a gifted pool player would also be gifted at this game, it’s that accurate. Not many games can lay claim that!
You also have three aiming assists to make things easier with regards to a shot line, showing you where the cue and formidable target ball may likely go or end up. Long, medium and short need little explanation but for the ultimate challenge you may want to choose the hard shot type with no aim assist. Win a game in this mode and you truly are a Hustle King.
Online the game has a pretty robust feature set, cross-play with PS3 players is an added bonus this ensures there’s always somebody to play against. Hustle Kings does seem to have a cult following and an active community for what it is. All types of game play and options are available, online chat, even betting with your hard earned HK credits top it all off. What I found to be the ace in the hole regarding the online features is message play. This is essentially an online vs. match played over a number of days, weeks or however long you choose. You see each player takes their shot and a message is delivered through the PSN informing your opponent it’s now their turn at the table, they then click on the message and are taken straight to the game via a link, they take their shot and repeat the process back to you. This is great fun as it means you still get to play against your friends but you don’t need to be online at the same time. I’ve been playing these modes for months now and they still feel fresh and fun, especially the snooker matches as they tend to suit this longer kind of play style.
The physics are spot on for a pool game, every shot and ball reaction has its place and is correctly emulated to great effect. You can really pull of some incredibly difficult shots (with practice of course) This in turn is very rewarding, you really feel like you’ve accomplished something when you pot a few balls on the bounce or get a big break in the snooker modes. Control wise the game benefits form the Vita’s control options, front touch screen, rear touch pad and the use of analogue sticks and buttons make playing and controlling Hustle Kings a dream.
I would go as far as to say apart from using a mouse on a PC this is the best control method you’re going to find in a pool game. As we all know because the Vita has a touch screen it would of been all too easy for the developers to implement touch controls only, essentially making it like all the other ios and Android games out there. The Vita also features physical buttons and sticks by default, this means the control method can be improved and implemented to work alongside the touch inputs – thus improving the game play.
Graphically the game hits the spot, no pun intended. Clean, sharp visuals and reflections on the balls, great looking tables and environments, bright colours with from what I can tell is native resolution make the game feel very polished indeed. It is a pool game after all so I suppose there isn’t much you can say about the overall looks but you’ll be hard pushed to find a better looking pool game on other devices.
Sound effects are pretty basic as you would expect from this type of game, the back ground music is nice and features various tunes from genres like Jazz, Rock, Pop and Hip-Hop. You can also set your own custom soundtrack to play while you shoot some pool, on the Vita and PS3 version.
I could go on and on about what the game offers, how good the physics are and how relaxing and rewarding it is to play but at the end of the day it is just a pool game and a two thousand word review may seem over the top so I’ll cut it short here.
Hustle Kings is a fantastic game of virtual pool on both the Vita and PS3, although the Vita control method feels more natural both versions are lot of fun and feel very satisfying to play. You do get both versions for the price of one which is a great bonus for duel owners. The down side? For me personally apart from the difficult career mode the game represents and emulates a pretty much perfect game of pool and snooker. That still means it is only pool and snooker though so if you’re not a fan of this game type you may want to give this a miss? The spikes in difficulty may also be a bit hard to swallow for some. If you’re at all interested in the subject matter though you’ll be hard pushed to find a more enjoyable game of pool anywhere.
Scoring a game like Hustle Kings, that is perhaps not as main stream as other games is more difficult as the score has to represent a general quality rather than how much you actually enjoy it on a personal level. It also has to take into account what the subject matter is and what faults the game has, make no mistake the game does have faults just like any other game but for me the game has been a very enjoyable experience over the last seven or eight months.
Hustle Kings is a quality put together package that deserves some attention, even if your not that much into pool you may just find yourself converted.
Go on give it a try.
- Plenty of content
- Rewarding game play mechanics
- Brilliant and precise ball physics
- Great online message play
- Cross-buy, Cross-play
- Some difficulty spikes
- Frustrating career mode for some
- Not enough credits for winning
- It is only pool
GAME NAME: Hustle Kings
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
PLATFORM(S): PlayStation Vita
RELEASE DATE(S): 22nd February 2012