Preview: Maxi Pool Masters

One of the nice things about the virtual reality (VR) ecosystem is that it is still new enough that small developers, or even individual coders, have a chance to get noticed. As with pretty much everything else, quality can vary but there can be gems waiting to be polished. Is that the case with Maxi Pool Masters?

Sports titles of various types are popular in VR, and there are a number of compilations and standalone games which include pool and snooker as options. Maxi Pool Masters takes a few unusual routes to attempt to stand out.

The first thing that becomes clear about Maxi Pool Masters is its incredibly awkward control system – using the Oculus Touch controllers you can line-up the cue and strike the cue ball to try and pot the coloured balls. The strange part is that there is also an overhead view, which is presented on a weird virtual tablet format which is both bizarre and off-putting as well as not terribly useful in most circumstances.

The second thing that strikes your eye is how gloomy everything is. Everything outside the central table is shrouded in deep shadows, except the scantily-clad women standing by the scoreboard. That’s all they do, stand there, unmoving contributing nothing except being a prop, seeming even more incongruous since the player and your CPU opponent only ever appear as disembodied hands.

The main ‘pool’ mode is awkward and the movement pointer jitters terribly in a way uncommon for an Oculus touch compatible title. The Early Access version seems to also suffer from some framerate drops, though that could easily be improved with some code tweaking.

The ‘Ball Throw’ mode is easily the most fun. Instead of using the pool cue, you simply throw the cue ball towards your desired target, being careful not to throw so hard as to end up with the cue ball in the pocket, of course. The pleasant physics in this mode shows some promise if if can be tightened up a bit.

Another feature is customisation, you can change the pattern on the cue ball, the felt colour and even the table edging. At present there are not that many options available, but you can get purple felt and a cue ball with a skull on, which is oddly pleasing.

Maxi Pool Masters shows some promise, but there is still a great deal of work needs to be done before it can match or exceed better-known titles such as Sports Bar VR, though the ball throw mode is fun for wasting some time.