Pool seems like a nice game for handhelds. It, you'd think, would be a nice and fast 'pick up and play' game to bring to the PSP - after all, we've had pool and snooker games since well before the 3D age. The Hustle: Detroit Streets from Blade Interactive is pretty much not how I'd make a pool game. In an attempt to make more of a 'game' out of what is already a great sport, The Hustle has ended up being a dull and rather awkward experience.
Credit should be given to Blade for trying to make The Hustle more than a simple sports sim, but it really doesn't work. In what I think is a first for a game of this type, there's a story and your character has a history, which you're presumably meant to care about enough to endure hours and hours of dull, slow gameplay, against the same players, over and over again. If you don't like cue sports, The Hustle clearly isn't a game you'll enjoy, but cue sport fans should at least be entertained - they won't be.
Being a hustler at the bottom of the food chain, you start off in a seedy joint, playing a few rather less than glamorous blokes. You can propose the wager for each game and even take part in one-off challenges, but the problem is that you'll spend an awful long time seemingly getting nowhere, earning little in the way of money and respect. It might well be the reality of being a hustler, but it certainly doesn't make for a fun game.
Eventually you'll get to play against a number of different players and even the odd boss-like character, but things take so long to get moving that you'll probably give up well before this happens. The game takes a while to load, you can't simply hop into a game (which isn't great on a handheld), and time between shots drags more and more as you play. You'll feel like you spend more time waiting around than actually playing, and that might actually be the case.
The core gameplay isn't bad at all, with a fairly simple to use control scheme (once you get used to it) and what seem like decent ball physics. The d-pad controls your aim and the analogue stick is used for shot strength. When you pull the cue back arrows will appear on the object ball, showing more or less what will happen to it and the cue ball. You don't see exact finishing positions, but after a little practice you'll be able to work things out fairly well.
You can simply follow through with the analogue stick in order to strike the ball, but your shot success also depends on how well you hit the ball. In order to strike the ball as you intend to, you need to stop a moving marker within a white zone that pops up on the screen. It seems a little like overkill, considering you're already thinking about your aim, shot strength and any spin you need to apply to the cue ball, but it does at least make The Hustle play a little differently to the normal pool games out there.
Visually The Hustle isn't anything special, and part of this might be because the game was first released in North America twelve months ago. Why it took so long to arrive in the UK is unknown, but the wait hasn't done it any favours. Other than some rather bizarre cue-actions (to the extent that you wonder how the cue is even hitting the ball) there's nothing much to complain about, but the music played in the bars can get a little annoying.
The Hustle: Detroit Streets is a game that simply doesn't feel right on the PSP. It's slow (and even slower when played wirelessly with a friend), lacks a quick play mode, and has an uninspired story mode. If you can look past these problems (and you probably won't be able to), the actual pool isn't bad at all. However, with SEGA's World Snooker title offering a better cue sports experience, and a new version due out in the New Year, it's very hard to recommend The Hustle.