Snooker games have been around since the dawn of 3D visuals, offering wannabe Jimmy Whites the ability to become a potting superstar without the need for any of the skill required in real-life. One developer which has made a name for itself thanks to Snooker and Pool video games is Blade Interactive and with its latest offering, World Snooker Championship Season 2007-08, hopes to bring the joys of the green baize to Nintendo DS gamers.
On the face of it, Snooker on the DS sounds brilliant. When played on the handheld's tiny screens the stylus seems like a perfect replacement for the real-life snooker cue. If only Blade had better executed the idea.
Visually the game is no more than functional, offering a 3D and overhead view of the action spread over the two screens. Using the stylus or d-pad you line-up your shot using the 3D view as default, although there is the option to move the overhead view to the bottom screen and use this for lining up shots. Stylus control proved too unreliable for me so I opted to make use of the d-pad and the fine-tuning control for my aiming needs.
Once lined-up you get to apply spin by moving a target to the required area on the cue ball with the stylus. Now lined-up and the correct spin applied it's time to take the shot, and this is where the game makes one of its biggest mistakes. Rather than offer a stroke mechanic using the DS stylus, with the speed and length of the stylus stroke determining the shot strength, the game forces players to set the power on a power meter. To hit the ball you pull the cue back and push it forward using the stylus, but this has no effect on the power and can also be performed with a button press.
To get you started the game features a very basic tutorial which, rather than teaching you how to perform the huge array of shots at a snooker player's disposal, merely tells you to copy the on-screen instructions. While no problem for those familiar with the sport, novices looking for some guidance will be left wondering what's going on.
The game's primary mode is the Championship, in which you get to play through eight rounds (each an official World Snooker tournament). At each round you're required to win three matches and a challenge. Once all eight rounds are complete it's time for the main event - the World Snooker Championship - where you'll need to win a quarter final, semi final and final to become World Champion. Although perfectly functional as a game mode, the decision to present a series of rounds rather than offer separate tournaments is a strange one and dumbs down the entire experience. It's also a waste of the officially licensed players (96, including Davis, Higgins and Mark Selby) and tournaments (nine including The Masters and the World Snooker Championship).
Besides Championship mode, there's a Challenge mode which is simply a way to replay the unlocked challenges from Championship mode, Quick Match which puts you into a game against a random opponent and Friendly mode which allows a custom game against an opponent of your choice. Friendly mode also offers the game's only multiplayer support - two players who must pass a single Nintendo DS between them. The lack of wireless multiplayer is a real killer and an oversight that is quite unforgivable for a sports title.
The lacklustre game modes are made worse by the game's player AI being extremely good from the off. My first game saw me break off well only to have Robert Milkins knock in a 135 total clearance. I know he's a pro, but to start players off against such strong opposition and to not have the option to alter the difficulty will make it largely impossible for novice players. Some perseverance on my part and some long safety battles eventually awarded me some progress. Once in amongst the balls you'll need to be making 60+ breaks if you want to get anywhere though.
World Snooker Championship on the Nintendo DS could have been a cracking handheld sports game, but its technical shortcomings, unimaginative use of the touch screen, insane difficulty and lack of wireless multiplayer make it a very difficult game to recommend.