Having been a fan of snooker throughout my childhood, I was transfixed by Archer MacLean’s snooker game for the Commodore Amiga around 22 years ago. Endorsed by Jimmy “The Whirlwind” White, the game (Jimmy White’s ‘Whirlwind’ Snooker) somehow married functional graphics with what appeared to be realistic physics long before Half Life 2 came along.
So accurate was the outcome that it seemed as though such physics might become commonplace in the early videogame market, and the snooker matches themselves were transformed from the poor 8-ball pool emulators of the past into tournaments that could realistically take as long to finish as a real-world event.
Was snooker about to take over videogaming?
Sadly, no. As with the wider world, snooker in games is considered too niche, aimed at guys in waistcoats who hang around at snooker clubs and pay ridiculous figures for their new cues.
Over the years there have been many other snooker-based videogames (Cue Online is notable) but none has had the same impact as Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker – however, International Snooker might come close.
What Is It?
For those of you unaware of any games involving a cue and some balls that isn’t called “pool”, snooker is a similar game with 21 balls and a progressive scoring system.
International Snooker (by Big Head Games) for Windows Phone is a digital recreation of the sport, real life tournaments for which regularly offer multi-million dollar prizes and take place around the world.
The intricacies of selecting a shot, an angle and power are all included in International Snooker and the game offers several modes of play including a mini tournament and quick play. Essentially this is the closest you can get to snooker without heading to your local snooker hall.
Controlled using your fingers International Snooker can be a tough learning curve as the game progresses, but early on there are various settings that can be configured to make things easier on you.
In fact, it’s fair to say that you might become addicted to the act of lining up a shot, ensuring that your positioning is perfect and rising to the challenge of recording a high break (the most number of points before your turn ends) in order to unlock the game’s various achievements. Different controls are on offer for lining up shots, with a “guideline” proving particularly useful in aiding your shots. This can of course be disabled. Taking a shot is a case of positioning the camera in the direction you want the cue ball to take, adding weight or spin, and applying power to the shot.
Several digital opponents will be blocking your way to success in this game, each with his own strengths and weaknesses, just as in the real world. They’re all beatable with practice, but your chosen skill level will make things tricky unless you first become a master at the game.
Sadly, although a premium game, International Snooker isn’t Xbox Live compatible. This is a real shame as it is easily good enough (if not better than some titles with that integration).
Graphics, Sound and Atmosphere
The problems that can face a game that is essentially about sticks and balls is that issues with motion and the representation of realistic physics can prove problematic.
Fortunately this isn’t the case in International Snooker, where the striking of the cue ball and the travel of the various other coloured orbs is convincing. Different shot strengths have different end results, as expected, as do different angles and striking the cue ball in the different ways.
Put simply, the game would fail without good graphics, and a good job has been done in this area; the visuals aren’t special, but they’re fine for a mobile game. Sound-wise, International Snooker has a theme tune which is accompanied by a modest soundtrack of in-game sound effects for things like the cue ball striking another or the sound from the audience. The balls can be a bit “clattery”, but it’s all about capturing the atmosphere of real snooker.
International Snooker: Game or Simulation?
You’ll probably be wondering – based on the screenshots and some of the elements included in the game – whether International Snooker is really a game, or if it is closer to a simulator. This is certainly the feeling of many fans, and might go some way to explaining why Microsoft has opted not to include it as an Xbox Live title.
Whatever the case, this is a fun, tactical game that can quickly turn intense. There are few mobile games better than this, but ultimate International Snooker is a game aimed at fans and enthusiasts of the sport. Additionally, the price of $2.99/£2.99 from the Windows Phone Store is arguably more appropriate for an Xbox Live title.
This shouldn’t put you off, but be aware that the game isn’t for everybody. It remains, however, one of the best games for Windows Phone, and is included in our list of The Best Windows Phone Apps.