I’m the type of guy who doesn’t really like sports in general. I don’t watch football, don’t follow cricket, can’t be bothered with the Olympics, and have no interest in rugby. However, there are a few sport-based video games which I really enjoy playing, games such as tennis, golf, pool, and snooker. These are also the only types of games my father plays on his PS4, so it gives us something to play together online or locally. So, I instantly became interested when I saw that two completely different snooker games were set to be released this week – today I’m looking at Snooker Nation Championship 2019.
With a strong focus on an arcade-style, rather than a licenced simulation, Snooker Nation Championship 2019 is a pick-up-and-play game with various modes and options for you to choose from. So grab your fanciest waistcoat and polish your balls, as we take a closer look…
I imagine that everyone here knows what snooker is? Great, I won’t explain the rules! Basically, Snooker Nation is a game which has been in Early Access on both the Xbox One and Steam for around three years. It comes from the team behind games such as Pool Nation [FX], Football Nation VR, Sports Bar VR and Hydrophobia (one of these things is not like the other…). Now, this is where it gets really interesting…
The developers, Cherry Pop Games, were born out of the ashes of Dark Energy Digital, a development studio which unfortunately ceased trading when Hydrophobia didn’t sell as well as it needed to in order to keep the company afloat (pun intended – although I did love that game). Dark Energy Digital was also well known for titles such as World Snooker Championship or WSC for short.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, remember how I said there are two snooker games out this week? The second game, Snooker 19, is essentially the spiritual successor to WSC Real 11: World Snooker Championship, the final game that Dark Energy Digital put out. So, it’s quite unusual and surprising to find that not only are there two snooker games, but one is an arcade-style from members of the team who previously made the WSC games and the other is a spiritual successor to WSC as the first licenced snooker game since the Dark Energy Digital one eight years ago!
Anyway, enough with the history lesson – let’s talk snooker! Snooker Nation Championship 2019 is an arcade-style snooker game which aims to deliver simplistic gameplay combined with nice visuals and good physics. What more could you ask for from a snooker game? It’s all about those ball physics! Options are limited but you have the options you’d expect in a game like this; you can either enter a Championship against the CPU, play Versus with your friends and family locally, try out the online portion of the game, or mess around in the practice mode. There is a ‘Skill Centre’ but this is literally a few pages of text telling you how to play the game.
We’ll talk about each aspect next, but first, the options menu, or ‘Profile’ as it’s called. The game ‘supposedly’ tracks your progression through the championship and displays all the info here about how many games you have won and lost, along with a tour progression chart. I say ‘supposedly’ because this says zero for me, even though I completed the game, and a few trophies never unlocked. I’m thinking that this part may not be working as intended yet!
You can also access your collection within this section, a collection only a millionaire would own. Seriously, some of the things you can buy in here (with in-game currency) are very expensive. You can change your aiming aid (so if you want it easy so the game shows you which direction your balls are going to travel as you hit them, then so be it) or turn it down a bit or completely off. You can also buy three new venues to play in, seventy new decals for the snooker table felt, ten cue styles, and five celebrations. Now, I’m most interested in the celebrations but they are 100k and 200k each! I have 38k after completing an entire championship!
This is basically your ‘single player’ mode. From here you can start a new career or load up any of your previous ones – I’m not sure how many careers you can have on the go, but it’s at least two (as I have two on there). You’re given a few standard options, pick what level of aiming support you want (the predicted ball movements I talked about before), the difficulty of the AI, and what tour type you want to play. You can opt to play either Snooker or Snooker Plus (yeah, I had no idea what it was either). Snooker Plus seems to introduce two new balls into the game – the Orange and Purple balls. I have never personally seen this before but the rules and gameplay seem to be identical, other than the extra shiny balls.
This mode is the local MP option within Snooker Nation Championship 2019. From here you can pick whether you want the extra balls in Snooker Plus or not, what decal you want to be placed on the felt of the table, what location you which to play in, your celebration, if you’re playing against a human or AI, and how many frames you want to play for. Now, if you’re really into your snooker and you want to play it all night against your buddy, you can play twenty-five (25) frames! I personally think that’s a bit excessive, but it’s your choice – there are plenty of options between one and twenty-five which you can also pick. I like the fact you can play against the CPU in this mode as well, it’s basically a ‘free-play’ mode.
I bet you can’t guess what this mode is… I honestly thought it would be you versus the CPU until I saw that was in the Versus mode. You’re simply placed on a table with a set of balls and you’re the only player. So, you can practice your shots and play around with the various controls until you’ve mastered them. The best thing about this mode is that you can push a button and swap between the various aim support modes on the fly. This is great as it means you can see how well you get on with the different settings without having to leave the game to make a change.
I imagine this is where the most gameplay will come from in a game like this. There are three main options within multiplayer, let’s look at each one:
In here you can set all the same options we saw in the Versus mode above, only there’s one major difference – online. That’s right, once all settings have been set, you can tap a button and invite any of your friends who own the game to jump in and play with you. So, this is technically Online Versus.
This is actually quite intuitive and fun. Upon entering this menu, you’ll see ten tables before you. Tap Triangle and they will refresh and show you if anyone is awaiting a game. If they are, you can join their table, agree to the terms of the round and proceed to play them. It’s quiet at the moment, but I imagine that’s because the game has only just come out and it is 12:30 am as I write this! If you don’t see any matches, or you want to play differently, you can create your own game by picking if you’re playing for fun or money and setting the other options as we did in Versus. Yes, you heard me correctly, you can play for money but put your wallet away as the only money you’ll be paying up front and winning/losing is your in-game cash! I imagine this is how you can afford those fancy celebrations.
These can be started in the Snooker Hall or just by clicking on Leagues. Leagues work the same as your standard match, only you’re trying to win points instead of money. You start in league 10 and you’re trying to get to league 1 by obtaining three points for a win so you can level up and proceed through the rankings. This doesn’t appear to be your standard league, where you have many people involved, it’s just 1v1 as you gradually get closer to becoming the World Championship Snooker player.
So, what’s the game actually like to play, now you’ve chosen your mode and set up all your decals and cue designs? I really enjoyed it. Sure, it’s not got the polish we saw in Pure Pool, with its incredibly shiny balls you could almost see your face in, but the game still looks good and is lots of fun to play. You can raise/lower your cue, position it anywhere on the cue ball, change your viewing angle (even free roam), and turn on fine aiming for slower movements.
One of the more interesting mechanics has to be the actual hitting of the ball, or more precisely, the power meter. As you pull back the Right Stick, you’ll see a power bar go up – if you tap R1 then the power becomes locked in place, so you can let go of the Right Stick. This simple mechanic is great if you want to get the right power then have one final look to make sure you’re aiming it right without holding the stick back. Once you’re happy, simply push the Right Stick forward and it’ll hit the ball with the pre-set power. Also, if you push forward without pulling back and locking it first, it’ll hit the ball with an average hit – perfect for lazy people!
However, you can still pull back then push forward to hit it there and then, this locking mechanic is just an option and doesn’t have to be used. Personally, I know my mum and dad will enjoy that as they both have trouble with the controller sometimes as they end up pushing it forward too slow or they’ll knock the Left Stick whilst trying to push in the Right one (as I’ve seen them do on golf games many times). So, locking in the power, then simply pushing the one stick, will greatly benefit them.
Regarding the balls themselves, I’ve played the game for about six hours and I’ve not encountered any situations where my balls didn’t do as expected, or I dropped my balls into the wrong place – it all seemed great. Also, the difficulty levels of the AI seemed spot on. If you pick easy then the AI will generally give you a chance to catch up when it gets ahead of you – unlike the other snooker game where easy apparently means “don’t let the human have another go once the AI takes control.”
Also – you can press Cross to speed up a shot, well, instantly finish a shot. So, once the ball starts moving, hit Cross and it’ll be in its final resting place whether you hit it or the other person/CPU did – this is great if you’re in a rush and want to just fly through a few matches.
The atmosphere within Snooker Nation Championship 2019 seems realistic from the point of the snooker player. So, in reality, the player would be bent over the table whilst everyone is quiet, with only the sound of the referee (are they called that?) calling out your point value as you pot away. This is mirrored within the game, although you can hear the mumblings of the crowd in the background if you turn their volume up or put on headphones. It all combinates into a realistic situation from their view. I keep wording it like that because Snooker 19 has full commentary, as if you’re watching it on TV with the guys in the booth talking about everything that’s going on – this game doesn’t have that.
You’d be surprised at how relaxing it is though, playing with the white noise of people chatting quietly in the background. It’s all very well done. Also, if you look around the venue, you’ll see various TV monitors which display your real-time score and names – which I thought was a nice touch.
Snooker Nation Championship 2019 looks fine for what it is – it’s an arcade snooker game which focuses more on its gameplay than the fancy visuals. However, it’s not a bad looking game, just not quite on the level of bigger budget games out there. I liked the small attention to details, such as the mumbling crowds, as it brings the game to life and makes it more realistic without going over the top with it. The various cues and decals you can unlock are a nice addition, as it gives you something to work towards, although I would have liked it more if it gave you a full preview of the unlockable before you bought it. As I said above, the celebrations are $100k yet I have no idea what they are or what they look like – so I’m making a backup of my save before I unlock those!
Also, your profile in-game has a silhouette as your picture, it would be nice if the developers could have that pull through your avatar, or maybe give you a choice of avatars to pick from? One last thing – the money. It’s presented in-game as dollars ($), why not pounds? The developer is from the UK (they are about 15-20 minutes from where I live), and I would have thought snooker was more popular in the UK than the USA. It’s only a minor observation, but it seemed strange when I saw the currency was in dollars.
Stability wise though – I’ve had no issues with the game in terms of performance. I know a few people have had problems with crashes, but I’ve had nothing but smooth gameplay.
Snooker Nation Championship 2019 is a fun arcade-style snooker game for both solo and multiplayer matches. It may not look as visually stunning as Pure Pool, or contain licenced characters and venues like Snooker 19, but if you’re looking for balanced gameplay, correct ball physics, the option between snooker and snooker plus, and various things to work towards unlocking, then you can’t go wrong with Snooker Nation Championship 2019.
There are a few things I would like to change about Snooker Nation Championship 2019, such as the profile picture, being able to preview the unlockables, and maybe an option for different coloured felts? However, this is balanced out with great things such as the power assist, adjustable aim guide levels, and well balanced AI difficulties. Also, this game is really cheap, with a base price of £7.39 and a 20% discount for Plus members for the first month!
Snooker Nation Championship 2019£7.39
- - Good ball physics and controls
- - Very relaxing with the mumbling of the crowd who'll occasionally cheer when you do a good shot
- - Lot's of options for online and local versus play
- - Contains both snooker and snooker plus game modes
- - Lots of customisation items to unlock
- - Money is rewarded in very small amounts, it'll take ages to afford a lot of the unlockables
- - The visuals are rather simple outside of the table and the balls
- - There appears to be a few glitched trophies (will most likely get fixed)
- - Fun arcade game but not as in-depth as others out there (will be a negative or not based on your preference)