The Berlin Wall has recently fallen, Seinfeld is dominating television and Justin Bieber has just been born. Yes, it's the 1990s and, for some reason, we're playing pool.
We'll leave the jokes about the title to you folks in the comments, as 90's Pool doesn't really leave us in much of a mood for fun. And for a video game, that's a problem.
Developer Cinemax seems to have gone for a deliberately simple approach to the release, and while that's admirable in its own way, it doesn't allow 90's Pool to develop much of an identity, and more or less assures that it will be neglected and quickly forgotten. Having experienced all that this very slim release has to offer, we can't say that that's a bad thing.
The game contains several modes, but they don't offer much in the way of variety. You can play against a friend, you can challenge the game's AI (on three difficulty settings) and you can play Campaign Mode, which is a collection of 20 pool puzzles that will have you sinking difficult shots. It's this latter mode that might have allowed the game to find some real momentum, but with only 20 puzzles — all of which are solvable with the brute force of trial and error — you'll finish them before they even begin.
Mainly you'll be playing quick games of pool. Rather than stripes and solids, 90s Pool employs a two-colour ball set, with a cue ball and an 8-ball. Play alternates between two players until one player sinks all of his colours and follows it up with a successful sinking of the 8-ball, or somebody loses by sinking the 8-ball early. The AI is fittingly silly on easy mode and downright devious on hard mode, but the normal setting can lead to some interesting games and is probably where most players will gravitate. Two-player mode is handled by passing the DSi back and forth; there is no Download Play.
90's Pool controls well enough, with a few niggles we feel obligated to highlight. It's controlled entirely on the touch screen, which means selecting angles for your shot can sometimes feel imprecise; the option to "nudge" an angle slightly with the D-Pad would have been nice for perfectionists. Shots are made by flicking the stylus across the bottom of the screen, but the response the game gives to your movements is only vaguely predictable, and it's difficult to measure just how much — or how little — force you're using to hit the ball.
Additionally, the manual doesn't mention the fact that you can hit the ball without flicking the stylus along the bottom, but it must be possible as the cue ball has blasted wildly away from us many times while we were quietly selecting an angle. It would have been nice to have this alternate control option explained, as we couldn't seem to trigger it deliberately but kept finding ourselves sabotaged by it. Of course it could just be a glitch, but we like to stay optimistic.
The presentation of the game is nice enough. The graphics are smooth and the music is passable... and no, the soundtrack is not inspired by Seattle grunge rock.
This sort of sums up 90's Pool in a nutshell: passable. No major problems, but not much in the way of recommendation either.
90's Pool is completely average in every way. It has a few control related quirks that certainly rub us the wrong way, but overall the game's biggest crime is that it doesn't attempt to provide much of an experience at all. For its low price this might be something that huge fans of the game will be glad enough to add to their collection, but we doubt any non-enthusiasts will find much of value here.