This is one of our favorite games so we’ll just get right into reviewing this
In Hustle Kings, the first thing you’ll do is create an avatar for career mode, and then you’ll be able to start making in-game cash via the HKC monetary system. HKC is basically the equivalent of dollars in the game; it’s what you’ll use for entry fees, what you’ll win through career mode, and what you’ll be able to bet against other players in the online mode of the game. When you begin, you’ll only be able to check out the Rookie league options, but it only takes a couple matches against the computer to unlock the Amateur league, and before long you’ll be able to check out the additional two circuits as well. Each circuit has a certain number of game types to check out, ranging from your traditional 9-ball and 8-ball set-ups, to game specific challenges like Trick Ball and so on. The challenges are shorter variations on traditional pool for the most part, and in something like Trick Ball it’s really a thinly veiled attempt at teaching you some of the harder to pull of shots and tricks that’ll actually make you a better player once you take your game online. They’re well worth going through to help acclimate you to how the game works, and something I think everyone should attempt before going against a real opponent or two. Of course, there’s also a well-designed tutorial system in place that’ll get you used to the controls right away, so either option works.
The controls are fairly simple, but you’ve got enough options available in camera control and cue control to pull off some pretty impressive looking shots. The left analog stick controls your basic cue movement, right, left, up and down, while the right stick controls the point you’re going to hit on the cue ball itself. There’s a marker at the bottom left screen to show you the cue ball and where you’re currently going to hit it, and adjusting both of these movements are key to pulling off jump shots, curved shots and so on. The tutorial does a good job of getting you in tune with how it all works, and in no time I was able to pull of a good number of trick shots without tutorial assistance. There’s also a guideline to give you an idea of where your ball is going to go, what it’s going to hit, and how it’ll rebound off of that. This lets you adjust your spin to compensate, so you don’t accidentally scratch after sinking that corner pocket. This is a pretty basic set-up for most video pool games, and it works just fine here.
One of the better features though, comes from the camera control. Your default camera angle has you looking down the cue at the cue ball, almost eye level with the table itself. It’s an interesting view from a visual standpoint, but it doesn’t give you the greatest shot of the entire table, and obscures a lot of things you’ll want to keep an eye on. You can tap R1 though to bring up an overhead view, which is definitely my preferred angle. It’s easier to set up shots and see where they’ll go, and I suspect you’ll spend the majority of your time looking at the table from this overhead shot. However, it’s not the best at giving you an idea of whether a jump shot will clear a ball or not, so there’s a third view to help you set that up. The third view lets you focus the camera on a particular ball, and you can switch back and forth between all the balls on the table. With this view, you get a 360-degree view of each ball, letting you adjust things like jump shots so you can get the proper height to clear a particular ball. It’s a really useful view within the game, and it’s one that you’ll find lacking in most other pool titles, at least in the ones I have experience with.
Finally, there’s a shot percentage available to you prior to most shots, to give you a rough idea of how hard it’s going to be to pull off a shot. Along with this, you have two control options when it comes to how you move the cue stick, you can opt to adjust power with R2 and L2 via a meter, and move the cue stick back and forth with the right analog stick. Or you can adjust power and then use a meter that’s not unlike something from a golf title, where you try to hit X as the marker enters a certain space. I think controlling the cue stick with the analog stick is far easier, and feels more natural, but if you’re a master at timing things, the other option will work quite well. Either way, it’s nice to have the option to choose between the modes, and once again that’s not something you’ll see in many other pool titles. Also, if you find that your shot percentage has dropped quite a bit, you might want to hit select and apply a little chalk to your stick, which will improve your percentage slightly.