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Lunar Pool (NES) artwork

Lunar Pool (NES) review

"There isn't too much more you can really say about Lunar Pool, except that it's a generally fun game. If you like pool-- or perhaps mini-golf-- then it's hard to go wrong with it, especially if you can find it cheap. It welcomes newcomers and pros alike, and for a pool game which dares to reach beyond the normal boundaries, it does its job well."

Lunar Pool is sort of like pool, but in the future! At least, that’s the apparent pretense. The cover art features two guys who look like they'd most likely be found hanging out in a back alley in Hill Valley, circa 2015, but that doesn’t matter because all you’ll ever see once you actually start playing the game are a pool table and the balls sitting atop it. In other words, if you were hoping for fabulous illustrations of space beer, rocket cars, and light saber pool cues, you're just plain out of luck.

Though the game is all about pool, there is fortunately a bit more variety on offer than your traditional pool table allows, even beyond such simple and standard variations as snooker, carom billiards, and the like. Lunar Pool consists of 60 rounds, with each one played on a different table. The shape of each table varies wildly, to the extent that sometimes you might feel like you’re playing miniature golf rather than pool.

You begin the game on a standard six-hole table, and from there you will go on to face numerous other designs. Some tables are shaped like arrows, others like letters, or you’ll encounter different numbers of holes or even added obstacles. That variety is helped along by the fact that there’s no straightforward line of progression; you can begin with Round 01 and work your way up to 60 and back around again, or you can decide instead to begin in a different round of your choice.

There are a few options regarding how you would like to play. You can choose to go it alone, play with a second player, or compete against the computer, but there can never be more than two participants at once. Additionally, you can adjust the level of friction the balls have (on a scale of 00 to 255), making it so that just the slightest tap will send them ricocheting all around the table, or choosing a setting that means even the strongest shot you can manage will barely move the cue ball.

Such unusual options are nice, but the inclusion of a variety of supplemental rules is less fortunate. In a somewhat curious twist for a pool game, you possess a fixed number of "lives" to work with (or cue balls, if you prefer). You begin with three of them, and lose one if you scratch (knock the cue ball into a pocket) or take three consecutive shots without sinking a ball. You can gain additional balls by clearing the screen of numbered balls, with another coming if you manage to do so without mishitting (shooting a perfect game, in other words).

These rules are irritating if you just want to keep going until all of the balls have been sunk, and an option to disable such restrictions would have been most welcome. If you're just trying to advance through all of the tables in sequence, though, the added stipulations are far from a deal breaker thanks to the aforementioned ability to resume play on any table at any time. You’re basically offered a simple continue or password system, and that works fine as long as you don't mind having to start the table over again.

Visually, there isn't much of note. The game hardly pushes the system’s graphical capabilities to the limit, nor is it overly simple. It's just pool (somewhat strange pool, admittedly, but pool just the same). The worst criticism anyone can mount against the design is that the tables are surrounded by frames some might describe as garish, but that just reflects the sort of hues people in the 80s thought would be all the rage in the distant future.

The audio, meanwhile, is a little more interesting. The title screen features an upbeat jingle which seems to fit well enough. "We're all friends here,” it seems to say. “Now, let's shoot some pool." That tune is reserved only for that screen, and the tune which accompanies the pre-game settings is unique to that screen, as well. During the actual gameplay, there's a repetitive but not terribly annoying tune which helps to keep the game moving alongside the almost glass-like clinking sound of balls colliding and the pseudo-teleporter-like sound of balls being sunk. Overall, that primary tune is upbeat and accompanies the game well in spite of-- or perhaps due to-- its simplicity.

There isn't too much more you can really say about Lunar Pool, except that it's a generally fun game. If you like pool-- or perhaps mini-golf-- then it's hard to go wrong with it, especially if you can find it cheap. It welcomes newcomers and pros alike, and for a pool game which dares to reach beyond the normal boundaries, it does its job well. What more can you ask for?

LBD_Nytetrayn's avatar
Freelance review by David Oxford (June 01, 2013)

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