Ronnie O’Sullivan’s Snooker a great looking game but needs tournament mode

Posted: June 27, 2009 in Sports

The game of pool is one of the few sports categories well-suited for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform. Think about it—the objective is to knock balls into various pockets through the use of touch and swipe controls, making it easy to play yet offering enough of an enjoyable and challenging experience. Of course, pool games are nothing new to the platform, but I’m always excited to see what devs conjure up with each new release. By far, one of slickest looking is Ronnie O’Sullivan’s Snooker, and with a few tweaks, this game could easily be one of the best in the category.

When you first set your eyes on the game, you’ll be impressed by how well presented this game is. From the use of video showing Ronnie’s best moments and presentation of the billard table to the ball physics and auto-rotating camera angles, the realism can’t be beat when compared to the current crop of similar games. The jazzy soundtrack along with the sound effects including the realistic ball-on-ball smacking is well done.

Before I get into Ronnie O’s Snooker, I think it may be useful to review some of the rules of the game, which by the way is extremely fun and challenging if you haven’t given it a try in the past. The objective is to score points by sinking balls into the pockets, but there is certain order in which this is done. The majority of balls are red followed by a number of different colored balls.

1. When first starting, you must pot (or sink) a red ball to score a point.
2. Once you pot a red ball, then you must pot a colored ball, then a red, and then a colored ball and so on alternating between red and colored balls.
3. If you hit or pot a ball out of order, you foul and lose points to your rival.
4. Once the red balls are cleared, the colored balls must be cleared in a specific sequence to gain points.

Yellow—2 points
Green—3 points
Brown—4 points
Blue—5 points
Pink—6 points
Black—7 points

Ronnie’s Snooker offers 4 gameplay modes: Quick Match, Practice, Career and Multiplayer. In Practice, this is an untimed and unrestricted mode where you can experiment with different shots without fear of Ronnie providing an occasional comment when you screw up. The practice table is set in a room that is immaculately decorated with pictures on the wall, a bookcase, skylight and a view of the lush backyard. However, don’t be distracted by the details. Seriously, Ronnie’s picture with text reprimanding me for potting a ball out of sequence can be quite intimidating.

In Quick Match, you play against Ronnie at different stages in his career. For example, Ronnie aged 7 is the easiest (hopefully for you) and goes all the way up to Ronnie aged 30. There are 6 of these levels each with a brief description of his playing state at that particular age.

Career offers something different than what you’d expect. In this mode, you’re injected into key moments (19 in all that are progressively unlocked) in matches in Ronnie’s career. While they’re not complete matches, it’s definitely different from anything else you’ve seen and allows you to see how well you would fare in crucial moments. Some of them are even timed forcing quick decisions and shots.

Multiplayer provides several options: hotseat (two players on one device), local wi-fi, and Internet play. Because the game was just released, I managed to only play two games online, and the graphics and gameplay were smooth with no lag on my iPod Touch 2g. While I didn’t get a chance to try this, a chat button is located in the upper right corner so you can chat or trash talk to your opponent. A negative with multiplayer is that you can’t add friends or make friend requests, and instead, you are randomly paired with someone out in cyberspace. Another is the lack of an online scoreboard and the abrupt end once a game is concluded. Literally, once a game is completed, you’re done…can’t even continue trash talking or gloat because you’re automatically disconnected.

The controls are relatively simple and work well for me. Shooting angles and aim can be repositioned by dragging around the screen, and a camera button in the upper right corner will allow for a 2D overhead view or a 3D view from the table. In addition, trajectory lines are provided to show how balls will play at different angles. To shoot, a cue stick slider is located on the left side of the screen which can be slid up and down to varying degrees for power. A shoot button is located in the bottom right corner, and underneath the camera button is a cue ball to allow for rotating spin. In general, the control scheme works as well as can be expected and is responsive. The aiming can be somewhat difficult and imprecise but by flipping between the 2D and 3D views, it does provide a measure of help in refining a shot.

I mentioned the rules Snooker and alternating shots between the red and colored balls. As is typical in other snooker games, a handy indicator is located in the upper left corner showing what color ball to hit next. You’ll want to pay attention to that as your points can take a beating as indicated by the scoreboard located at the bottom of the screen. In addition, if you make a great shot, you can also save them as replays.

The gameplay in Ronnie’s Snooker is terrific with realistic ball physics, and the rotating camera that shows the ball from different angles as it travels along the table is yet another area that deserves highlighting. The transition is lag free, and the ball movements and shadowing are top notch. The AI, however, could use some tweaking and the difficulty needs an upgrade. On numerous occasions, the AI took ill-advised shots or behaved as if it weren’t even trying with foul-laden attempts. The difficulty does ratchet up a bit when playing an older and more experienced Ronnie, but this still needs a good tune up.

Other than the things I’ve mentioned, the lack of a tournament mode keeps Ronnie’s Snooker from being a great game, and I don’t see why this can’t be added in an update. A tournament/championship or full-fledged career mode (and I don’t mean Ronnie’s) would add significant replay value, and while the current release is entertaining, I see it more as a complementary game rather than a full-fledged snooker game. For the most part, you’re reliving Ronnie’s experiences, which is great on the one hand. But as a gamer, I don’t have any incentive to keep playing once I’ve gone through the various modes. Even multiplayer as I mentioned needs a few adjustments to make it better on the replayability.

Ronnie’s Snooker easily and successfully shows off its high production values, and beats other snooker games hands down in terms of slickness. The realistic gameplay and the ball and shooting mechanics create a strong foundation. If you’re a fan of Ronnie O’Sullivan or want a complementary game to a snooker game you already own, I wholeheartedly recommend this. For others, it may be wise to consider other options if you’re new to the game or want a standalone title.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (high production values set the bar for this category and make it a terrific game for existing snooker fans; others may want a more full-fledged game)

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