Being a video game website based in the United States, sometimes we’re offered the chance to review something that’s out of our comfort zone. As a country that’s pretty set in our ways, we’re not well versed in certain sports like cricket, or even soccer for that matter. When we were provided with an opportunity to review International Snooker on PC, I honestly had no idea what snooker even was. I actually had to Google the term, or else I would have assumed that it was some sort of international dating simulator. Part of me was actually crossing my fingers for the latter. However, never ones to turn down a challenge, we accepted the chance to review the game and wanted to push ourselves to not only play something different, but give an unbiased opinion.
For our equally clueless American readers, snooker is a cue sport like pool, but features a larger table, smaller balls, smaller pockets, focuses on softer strikes, has a different ball setup, and a different set of rules altogether. Looking at the screenshot above, you’ll notice a rack of 15 red balls with various colored balls placed in specific locations. In snooker, you need to hit and pocket a red ball first, then alternate between pocketing a colored ball and a red ball to earn points. Once all of the red balls have been pocketed, you then pocket the remaining colored balls in a specific order. Unlike pool, snooker is a game of points, so it’s possible to lose even if you sink the final shot.
At the start, International Snooker offers 3 game modes in Career, Quick Game, and Multiplayer. According to the game’s Steam page, Career mode spans an entire in-game calendar year and unlocks additional arenas, trophies for your trophy cabinet, and is where you’ll be spending a majority of your time as it’s the only way to earn credits. Although the game has easy pick-up-and-play controls, unfortunately this is where the bar of progression will end for any beginners like myself.
Earning credits was near impossible for me, as the A.I. opponents rarely made mistakes and would frequently clear a majority of the table on their first turn. Actually, in 3 solid hours of constant play, I only managed to win one round. I was even a pub crawler in my 20’s, and I’ve played more than my fair share of pool in smoke filled bars, but even my 10 years of inebriated experience couldn’t save me. Since I constantly lost games, I never earned credits to buy anything from the shop, and that’s a huge bummer since there is a decent amount of content locked behind that door.
Should you manage to win a few games, you can use your credits to purchase upgrades like an auto-chalk function, better spin/swerve on your ball, and even a U.S. 8-ball and 9-ball mode. Had those last two modes been unlocked from the start, I’m absolutely positive I would have spent more time with the game. But sadly, after 4 hours I had experienced enough losing to call it quits.
International Snooker does offer a multiplayer mode, but I never managed to find a single game during the 45 minutes I parked myself in the lobby. With that in mind, I can’t say whether or not multiplayer works as intended, but I can’t really recommend that as a selling point unless you have friends that will be playing with you. If that’s the case, it seems pretty simple to set up games with the invite your friends option right there on the main menu. There is even an in-game chatroom to use, rather than relying on third party software like Skype, Ventrilo, or Mumble.
Graphically, International Snooker is hit or miss. The important parts look great, from the texture of the wood and the entire table itself, to the shiny balls (giggity?) cracking in to the pockets. The crowd, however, leaves much to be desired. You don’t really see the crowd much, but when you do, they generally resemble lifeless, soulless beings, clapping along at the right time, or staring off in to the distance at.. well, nothing really. They do react well to the game though, ooh’ing and aah’ing at trick shots or heartbreaking near misses, gasping at fouls, or cheering for the winner. The arenas themselves are easy on the eyes, but since it’s a cue sport, don’t expect a Madden or FIFA level of quality.
Overall I didn’t have the greatest time with International Snooker, but I didn’t hate it either. It took a few games to learn the rules, but unfortunately the AI was so far beyond my skill level that I never won more than once, and, in turn, never earned credits to unlock any of the perks or additional game modes. I’d hate to think that my unfamiliarity with snooker as a sport was the leading factor in my consistent losing streak, because even after learning the rules I still seemed to get crushed regularly by the AI. It was easy to pick up and play, had a clean interface, and wasn’t graphically appalling, but the difficulty was ramped up far beyond what I was capable of defeating. I could probably recommend it if snooker is your thing, but otherwise be prepared to get decimated by snooker-fueled robots.
Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling news, reviews, and a bit of our public relations communications. He’s an aspiring writer and Baltimore native that can usually be found watching terrible B-movies or knee-deep in a roguelike, a horror game or some sort of point-and-click adventure. His favorite console is the Dreamcast, favorite game is the original Metroid, and he could watch The Goonies for the rest of his life. Contact him by e-mail at the address above, or follow his insanity on Twitter.