Review: International Snooker Pro
Back in the midsts of time (2011) I reviewed International Snooker, giving it a rave write-up - but ever since have still been eyeing up the more modern 'Pro' version, effectively a re-write, over on Android and iOS. And now the new, full game is on Windows Phone and I'm expecting great things. Summary: I wasn't disappointed, though do see my caveat in bold below!
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Writer's note: this game is heavy on processor requirements. I was playing it on the Lumia 930, which runs it at full speed. Ditto the 1520. But note that the older S4-based phones run the game at less than half speed, essentially unplayable, while the Snapdragon 400-based phones run it acceptably, but definitely 'slower than real life', and with some graphical stuttering.
The original International Snooker was a great simulation for its time, but felt a little lacking in subtleties and atmosphere. In contrast, the 'Pro' rewrite has been designed with everything you'd expect from the ground up:
- the venues change, even from two tables down to one in the latter stages
- there's cue chalking and poor contacts if you forget to do this for a few shots
- there's more intuitive control of cue ball spin by simply swiping on the cue ball thumbnail, top left
- matches are 'best of n frames' rather than sudden death single frame affairs
- action replays are available and from multiple angles
- ball rolling is freer and even more realistic
- that 'Scots lady' Snooker referee (from the TV) announcing your mounting break and calling the shots generally
- better graphics detail, better sound effects
All of this is in perfect step with the version of International Snooker Pro on Android, even down to matching the Android version's longstanding 'bug' whereby the screen time-out interrupts your opponent's breaks, forcing you to keep tapping the screen to keep the game alive. Provided your lockscreen timeout isn't too short though, this isn't a problem in most matches.
There's a trial version that allows three frames to give you a feel for the game and how it plays, plus a 'Quick Play' feature, but the meat of International Snooker Pro is in the 'Career' mode, in which you work through a virtual year, with each tournament letting you work through easy first rounds, and then your opponents getting ever better in terms of playing AI, until in the final of each event you're absolutely punished if you miss.
It's perfectly pitched and utterly addictive. I've been playing this title for half an hour a day every day for the last two years on Android (I know, I know....) and still love it. The real world physics and the AI of the opponents mean that no two games are ever remotely the same and there's a real feel of trying to 'beat' the other guy.
If this all sounds a big gushing then I make no apologies. The timing of the visuals, with TV-style angles cutting in to show the ball and pocket action, the replays, the vocal scoring, the occasional applause from the audience (which is still generally muted, but hey....), all adds to an immersive game environment.
Yes, it's true that I've now bought this title in each of its two incarnations on three mobile platforms and that's adding up to close to £15 over four years. That should tell you how good this game is. Shots that I'd attempt in the real world (a little back spin, 76% power should bring the cue ball back off two cushions, ready for the pink, etc.) come off exactly as real balls would on a real table and with real cushions. In fact, in the real world I'd fluff the cue stroke and miss, at least here the cue stroke is the one thing that always comes off perfectly, provided you remember to chalk the cue!
In terms of in-game winnings, you amass enough to buy a temporary 'auto-chalk' function, and to buy extra cues with more power, these are all nice-to-haves, but no more. The core of the game is the snooker itself and this is hard to fault.
Is International Snooker Pro perfect? Not quite. There's an interesting quirk whereby the AI of opponents can be a bit weak getting out of snookers, so if you're miles behind in a frame then it's almost worth hanging in and trying to win the frame on the 'three misses' rule - that's a million to one shot in the real world and a 10:1 shot here, at least if your snooker is fiendish enough!
If you have any affinity for the green baize at all then make beeline for this title, it's the best snooker or pool game I've ever played.
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at