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Android Review - Pool Break Pro

Mark Webb
United States
Verona
Pennsylvania
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The Stats:
Game: Pool Break Pro / Pool Break Lite
Current Price: $2.99 / Free
Developer/Publisher: Kinetic Bytes
Version: 1.8
Size: 2.3 MB
Multiplayer: Pass and play, Public and Private Network Play
AI: Yes, 4 skill levels
Android Market: Pro - https://market.android.com/details?id=com.kb.Carrom3DFull
Lite - https://market.android.com/details?id=com.kb.Carrom3D

Also on iOS:
Full Game $2.99 - http://itunes.apple.com/app/pool-break/id422138104?uo=4&mt=8...
Lite Free - http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pool-break-lite/id422185019?u...

The Good:
- Graphics look amazing, but can be scaled for those on older devices
- Physics work well.
- Many different games to play
The Bad:
- Almost no bad points, only things I wish the developer added

Gameplay:
One may question this app's inclusion on a boardgaming blog. Yes, pool is not a board game, but this app not only has pool (and lots of it), but also features Carrom and Crokinole as well. All three games have common roots which involves colliding objects into each other or off of the playing field of the game. Eventually some of those objects are removed by hitting them into holes or pockets, or off of the playing surface.

Crokinole, is a game where discs are shot towards a center hole. Small posts make a circle around the inner part of the playfield for the discs to bounce off of. The rules require players to contact each other's pieces if they are present. Pieces that are shot into the center hole are scored and removed. Other pieces are scored based on their position on the board.

Carrom is very similar to 8-ball pool. The equipment is a bit different. Discs instead of balls, 4 pockets instead of 6, and a portable wooden board instead of a large slate table. Pocket your color of discs before your opponent pockets his. Discs are hit with a striker, whose purpose is to hit the other object discs, similar to a cue ball in billiards games. You must also pocket a queen disc, akin to the 8 ball, except can do that anytime between your first and last piece pocketed, and you must pocket another of your pieces in the same pocket to "cover" the queen.

Pool and Snooker
There are many variations on billiards games. This app has eleven different pool and snooker variations. I will not detail their rules here, only list them. This app includes, 8-ball, 9-ball, UK version of 8 ball, straight pool, one pocket pool, three cushion billiards, pool drills, place and shoot practice, snooker, snooker 6-reds, and snooker 10 reds.


Implementation:
Because of the similarities in these games, Pool Break has been able to present a similar interface to playing all of them. Instead of flicking for carrom and crokinole, all of the games are played with cues, but in my opinion that allows a visual way of aiming and measuring the amount of force you will apply to hitting the disc. The look of this game reminds me very much of the Virtual Pool series of games that was on the PC many years ago. 3D rendered tables, the ability to rotate around the room and zoom in and out were part of the interface of the game. Unlike Virtual Pool, where you had to stoke the cue, usually with the mouse, to make your shot, Pool Break uses the cue more as a measure of the force to be applied. Pull the cue back a little bit, it will deliver a little force. Pull it back a lot, it hits hard. You can move around, line up your shot, pull the cue back, readjust if needed, and then hit a button to deliver your shot. Also similar to Virtual Pool, Pool Break also has the ability to turn on and off tracking lines that show where balls or discs will go.

This app is visually great...It is nice that the developers can get such nice images out of a phone. As I had mentioned in a previous review, I have a phone that is about a year old, and had no problems with any of the physics or graphics processing while playing with all graphics options turned on. Although I had no problems, the developers offer options for both the graphics and the physics. So if the 3D is too much for your device, you can turn down the detail, turn off the background scenery, eliminate shadows, even remove the shine off of the balls.

This app is chocked full of options. You can select to play pool on either the standard rectangular table, or a hexagonal table. Carrom offers square, hexagonal, or circular tables. There is also an unusual option to play the disc games with balls, which is interesting if only for the novelty. I also mentioned options for the physics. While I don't think I will ever need to mess with these, there are settings to change sliding friction, rolling friction and mass ratios of pieces and the coefficient of restitution (whatever that is). I imagine if you want to try to make your crokinole game more realistic, and you are familiar with these terms, you can change these if you want. I think it is cool that the options are offered.

Opponents include the ability to pass and play, or play an AI opponent. The AI has four difficulty levels. Also available is the ability to play via the network. The app connects back to a central server to connect players for live play via the internet. Players can join public games, or supply a name to create or join a private game with someone who has been given the same game name. There is also a chat facility built in, to chat with your opponent. Most interesting is that the game is also cross platform. Kinetic Bytes also makes an iOS version of Pool Break, which connects to the same online games. There are only slight graphical differences between Android and iOS version. They very well could be just the differences between how the OSes interpret the graphics commands the apps give them. No big differences between the two OSes, in fact, I found it very easy to play a game between myself and a friend live, with very little lag between the two clients.

I have mentioned the amount of options. I could not find a flaw or error to point to when evaluating this app. I did have a couple of "I wish it could do..." thoughts, but even without those items, I would buy this app in a heartbeat. I do have to give the developers a lot of credit putting all of the options they have into this apps, as that broadens the appeal to me. (see my postscript below) One wishlist item is that they offer multiple variations of pool and the ability to play on a hexagonal table, yet bumper pool is not part of this app. I also wish that they could put other variations to carrom or crokinole into the app. The instruction manual I have for my carrom set has a lot of different variations and spin off games.

Although I didn't experience this, there are reports of certain models of phones freezing when running this app. Because this is specific to certain models, the developers have created a setting to use if you have that problem. The developers also have a support email on their website and say that they welcome comments and problems to make their app better.

So far, I have been referring to the Pro version on Android. There is also a lite version, that limits the online play to 8 Ball pool only, and limits the many games playable down to only the following:
US 8 Ball Pool, 9 Ball Pool, Pool Drill, Place-n-Shoot Pool, Regular Snooker, Regular Carrom, Crokinole

Conclusion:
I originally heard about this app from the Games for Android Geeklist. After only about 5 minutes, I was compelled to buy the full version because I was that impressed with the app. Second only to Words with Friends, this is the game that gets a majority of my gameplay on my phone. The graphics are quality. The games are fun. The motion is fluid and not jerky or prone to lag, even when playing on the network The amount of different games available in this app is a major plus.

Rating: 4/4 One of the Best



Postscript:
There was one game of the play modes, carrom billiards (aka three cushion billiards) that came as part of an update months after I bought the app. Played on a table with no pockets, and only three balls, it is a game where you must hit the two balls with the cue ball and hit three cushions in between. If this sounds familiar, you may have seen Donald Duck learn three cushion billiards in Donald Duck in Mathemagic Land. I don't know of anywhere I can play on a table with no pockets, so the ability to play three cushion in the app was an interesting, bonus treat.
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