First Impressions: Hustle Kings (PS Vita)
With the bevy of content that hit the Vita from the most recent store update gamers will have plenty of choices as to what to play. After downloading my Uncharted treasure maps, the Unit 13 demo (pretty slick) all the AR games and a certain game about mutant blobs I for some reason found myself drawn to Hustle Kings. As a younger man I spent my summers in pool halls learning the game, I was never a pro by any stretch of the imagination by understood the fundamentals and at times nailed some pretty tricky shots. I had never played the PS3 version of the game and had never really heard anything about it one way or the other. After spending a couple hours with the game I find myself compelled to share my experience with all of you.
For the uninitiated, Hustle Kings is a pool game that features a career mode, online play, trick shot challenges, free play and a training mode to get you started. The training mode does a good job of introducing you to the different methods of controlling your shot and how to utilize them to run the table on your opponents. Teaching you how to bank, put spin on a ball (English) and even doing tricky Masse shots are all made easy by the games training mode. There is no story to speak of (why would there be?) but the career will have you competing against a series of opponents of varying skill as you accumulate points that you can use to unlock avatar pictures, specialty cue balls and some bonus games. I haven't had a chance to dig into online competitive play yet, but probably will shortly and Retroids may use it to compile a full review for the game.
How it plays
Using the two analog sticks players can line up their aim and adjust the spin on their shot, this is helped by a little colored line that will show you where cue will strike and the resulting angle that the other ball will go in. On shorter shots you can line up shots with ease but for longer, trickier shots the line will fade so as not to make everything too easy. Anyone who has played pool will tell you that putting the ball in the pocket is no accomplishment, making your shot and then setting up the cue ball for the next shot is something much more skillful and Hustle kings will help you begin to understand the nuance of the deeper side of pool (and also, some of the nastier safety shots to infuriate opponents). There are three camera angles to help you line up your shots: the default view will put the camera right behind the cue to give an immediate view of whats in front of you, tapping the R trigger will put the view into overhead so you can see the whole table and finally tapping the R trigger again will let you assign the camera to the ball you are aiming at so you can get the angle just right. After playing several matches i have found that all camera angles are vital for guaranteed success. There are three shot types in the game, casual, standard and pro I wont get into the differences between them here because anyone who has played a video game knows what those three words mean.
So far Hustle Kings has proven to be great fun for me, being able to play my own music during game play is a definite bonus it takes me back to those summers when all I'd hear all day is the sound of pool being played and a very loud jukebox. The game is a lot of fun and I can't stress enough how important that tutorial mode is for new players. If I have one complaint its that I had settled on using the "Pro" style of shooting but when I went to career mode the game forced me to use the "casual" setting, though not a deal breaker it is still an annoyance. Also Ive heard that for people who already own Hustle Kings for PS3 this is free to use on the Vita which I think is pretty great. I own a lot of Vita games now and I'm starting to get worried about how many I will continually play. Hustle Kings however, needn't fear collecting that dreaded digital dust. Now if only I could just turn back the clock about 15 years and have the time to go play pool all summer....now that would be something.