Price: $20 (download); $30 (for two licenses).
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2. Universal.
Trial: Feature-limited (main games have a ten-shot limit; Billiards and Snooker are available only with registration).
Confession time: I played a little pool, back in the day. I am old enough to be allowed to say “back in the day,” but just barely.
I was never great at the game, with a handicap smack in the middle of the league, but that wasn’t bad. I especially liked the idea of angles. One time when I played with a physics major friend who’d never played and was struggling, I had an epiphany, and told her it was just vectors. She was great after that. So this game appeals to me on a mathematical level even though I am not that great at math. It appeals to some people who like to hit the ball hard and hear it hit other balls hard. Some folks like the way the felt feels, or its color. There is something in it for a lot of us.
So I had high hopes for MacPool 8.9. I had yet to play a good pool game on a Mac, though I know they exist. Mostly it had been online Flash games that did not satisfy.
This game comes from BaKno, which describes its games as “collaborative development work,” which I am not sure if they are for-profit or just breaking even, or what. I was unable to find out much about the group on the Web, except for several announcements about game releases. I was particularly intrigued to see that MacPool 8.7 was released in mid-January 2008, version 8.8 a bit later, and version 8.9 in early February. I bet that doesn’t mean anything to developers, who understand versioning. But to a casual user like me, I thought it was odd. I wondered if it Meant Something.
I downloaded the game, which took mere seconds, as the file is maybe 3 MB and there is no installer. I find this to be an asset. I was surprised to be able to just click on the icon and get moving. I read later on the Web site that all BaKno’s games are set up this way. They are designed to be simple to play, and simple to use, and I find this one to be just that.
I say it is simple to use, but there are a few snags in the playing process, but nothing substantial. There’s a game called 14:1, which I loved, which requires you to call your ball and pocket. It felt like it took a while after I clicked the ball before I could click the pocket, and then another long second before I could click the cue ball to start the shot. I am not a whiz-kid fast video gamer, so this is not the ranting of someone who expects instant gratification. But I felt like this was a delay that could have been speeded up.
That 14:1 game was a revelation to me. I’d played 8-ball and 9-ball, both of which are here, and snooker, which is available as an add-on. But this 14:1 game was new to me, and I liked it a lot. It starts off just like 8-ball, but you call your ball and pocket first. You can call any ball and any pocket, the whole game. Turns out this game is otherwise known as straight pool, and though its day has passed, it has been very popular in the US (especially in the movie The Hustler).
Billiards starting position.
The billiards game is fine, but it was the first time I missed the tactile sensations of the in-person game. I guess the other games have enough numbers and multiple things to keep your attention, that you can set aside not having a stick in your hands and chalk on your fingers. But billiards is such a simplistic game, it was more obvious to me on this one that I was on a computer and not for real.
Billiards is more popular in England, and 8-ball and 9-ball are more popular in the States. Pocket billiards games are more goal-oriented, while carom billiards games are tests of patience. You score points, but nothing drops into a pocket, and it’s different.
I dropped the 1-ball on the break—see it in the bottom corner?
One disconcerting flaw I found in the pocket games is that while the balls are in motion after a shot, the numbers and stripes drop out. They reappear when the balls stop rolling, so you can’t start planning your next shot unless you remember the positions of 1-ball and the 9-ball (both yellow). 2-ball and 10-ball, both blue, etc.
The idea of “snookering” someone may come from this game (it was also a military term to refer to a newcomer or rookie). The idea is to leave your opponent trapped with no valid shot, as in other billiards games.
If you’ve never tried snooker, I recommend it. The simplest explanation is that you must sink a red ball, and then you can try for a higher-point-scoring colored ball. The instructions explain the rules well enough.
I found a helpful forum on BaKno’s Web site, with much of the discussion centering on online game play speeds and such. I like the quick download, multiple games, availability of 14:1 (straight pool), and the sound effects.
The stripes and numbers dropping out is problematic. I want to start planning a shot, and I can’t. There are some typos on the Web site (“Your are done!” instead of “You are done,” and something else minor I don’t remember). My keycode stopped working after a few shots of snooker, but it was good enough to get me several cracks at the main games. I am sure this would be resolved quickly if I’d asked for support help, so it’s not a big deal.
In earlier versions, MacPool cost $10. Now it’s $20. At that price, I expect a little more for the money. If it was still $10, I’d rate it Good. At $20, it’s Okay. Definitely test it before you buy.