With the Snooker World Championships starting tomorrow, it seems a good time to review this little iPhone gem - a great little snooker game, officially endorsed by Ronnie O'Sullivan.
As with the man himself, Ronnie O'Sullivan's Snooker dares to be slightly different from other such games. Most snooker games simply set you the challenge of beating a number of opponents, or working your way through a series of rounds to win a tournament. Ronnie doesn't follow this path at all.
The main Career Mode selects key frames from Ronnie's career (going back to his junior days). These frames are recreated and you play them as if you were Ronnie. Different goals are set in each match: sometimes the objective is to win the frame; sometimes you have to match the break Ronnie made in that frame originally; other times the goal is to clear up. You must meet the particular objectives for that frame before you can move on.
This does feel slightly bizarre at first, particularly since sometimes you don't even play the full frame, but take over when it is already in progress. It is good fun, because you can try and match yourself against O'Sullivan and see if you can do what he has already achieved; and there is a genuine feeling of satisfaction when you reach the objective for that frame (particularly if you have struggled to do so). At the same time, it can leave the game feeling a little fragmented as you seem to leap around all over the place, rarely playing a full frame. In fairness, if you want to do this, Quick Mode lets you play a full frame against O'Sullivans of different ages (the older he is, the harder to beat), whilst there is also an online multiplayer mode, although I've never tried this.
The game actually plays a really good game of snooker. I've played a few interpretations of the sport over the years and most of them are awful. The in-game physics are spot-on and balls behave exactly as you would expect them to, with no unlikely bounces or ricochets. It also maintains that important blend: easy to play, hard to master. The first few challenges you are set are relatively simple and ease you gently into the game. As you progress, though, it gets tougher and you find yourself with increasingly difficult challenges and need to develop your skills.
Thanks to this carefully blended difficulty level, O'Sullivan's Snooker is a lot of fun to play. Casual gamers who don't normally like sports sims will enjoy it's pick up and play style; and the Career Mode means they don't have to slog their way through a full frame or match. Players of the real sport will find it a reasonably accurate portrayal of the game and enjoy the long term challenge it presents, as well as the fun on-line mode. The Computer AI is well-judged and the opponents you would expect to be tougher (John Higgins, for example), play a far better, meaner game of snooker than the juniors you encounter in the earlier levels.
Of course, some sacrifices have to be made to ensure playability and appeal to a wider audience and in Ronnie's Snooker, the emphasis is very much on potting, rather than long drawn out safety battles. You could argue potting is a little easy. When you line up your shot, a line on screen traces not just the trajectory of the cue ball, but also that of the object ball. This makes it easy pull off some truly outrageous shots that you would never even dream of attempting in real life. But then this is not meant to be a serious snooker sim, it's a fun little game that plays a fun game of snooker which is still reasonably faithful to the real-life sport. Yes, it might be a little too easy at times, but that's what makes it appealing.
Being hyper-critical, you could argue that not all the rules are implemented properly. Let me give you an example. In one frame my opponent needed snookers to win, but it was me that got the snooker. He missed the object ball and the referee called a Miss. First problem: if a player needs snookers, a Miss can't be called. Second problem: having called a Miss, I should have had three options: 1) replace the balls where they were and make my opponent replay the shot; 2) make my opponent play again from where the balls currently were 3) take my own shot as normal. The game only allowed my Option Three. In fairness, though, like any sport, snooker is a complex game, full of obscure rules, so it's understandable they have had to be simplified, and unless you are a fan of the sport, you probably won't notice many of these shortcuts.
The main aspects of presentation are fine, without ever offering anything spectacular (although in fairness, there's only a certain amount you can do with a snooker game!) The table is well-realised and the balls are all the correct colours and easy to distinguish from each other (the brown is usually easy to tell apart from the reds; often a problem in previous snooker games). Camera angles generally work well, and you can either view the action from above the table (to help you see how the balls lie) or from the traditional behind the cue ball perspective. The pseudo-3D perspective works well, giving you a real sense that you are the player. Whichever angle you choose, you usually have a clear line of sight which makes lining up your shot a lot easier. There are also a few nice video clips of Ronnie in action to break things up a little.
Sound is fairly minimal. There's the clicking of ball against ball, the odd round of applause when you construct a reasonable break and some OK music over the title screen. It might be relatively basic, but that's all the game needs: anything more would have been a distraction.
Indeed, some aspects of the game are an annoying distraction. Every time you finish your turn, up pops a text box where the referee tells you how many points were scored on that shot (even if none were scored at all). This requires you to tap the screen before you can progress. Worse, after your opponent has taken their shot, it tells you the number of points they scored; you have to tap the screen. Then (in case you are terminally stupid and don't understand how turn-based games work), it tells you it's your go... requiring you to tap the screen once more. This might sound like a minor point, but the constant requirement to tap the screen quickly becomes annoying and seriously interrupts the flow of the game.
Presentation in Career Mode can also be a bit lazy. Before each match, an image of Ronnie pops up telling you who he was playing in the particular frame you are re-constructing and what the state of play was ("for example, I was 2-0 to Stephen Hendry in the opening rounds of the World Championships and in real trouble..."). Yet throughout the match, your opponent is simply referred to as "Rival". This really saps some of the atmosphere out of the game as you never truly feel you are involved in a battle with fellow real-life professionals. Presumably it comes down to licensing issues, but that doesn't stop it from being annoying.
Controls are generally well implemented. Although there initially appear to be a huge number of icons to remember (controlling things like angle of the hit, whether you apply any Side or Screw to the cue ball, shot power etc.), these work very well. In fact, there are only really 4 main icons you need to remember about, so it doesn't take long to get to grips with them. Most work simply by tapping them and are responsive enough, although, of course, in a slower-paced game like snooker, this is not really an issue anyway. It's actually a surprisingly intuitive game which has mastered some of the more complex aspects of control very well.
The hardest aspect is probably judging the strength of your shot. This is done by sliding a cue up and down. As in real life, the further back you pull the cue, the harder the shot will be. Initially, there is a great deal of guesswork involved in selecting the right strength, but with practice you soon get to know how to judge the strength of the shot. This aspect, though, might be a little frustrating to some.
One issue I have experienced is that I can't play the game for too long. Because you are constantly tapping the screen or swiping your fingers across it, a thin layer of grease builds up from your fingers. This can make it extremely difficult to move around the table easily, as your fingers don't make proper contact with the screen - something I find usually happens after a couple of games. In fairness, this is more the fault of the phone than the game, but the lack of a virtual joystick as an alternative control option does mean that once it happens, you have no choice but to switch off.
Still, as both a serious attempt to implement a snooker game on the iPhone and as a game which is fun and accessible to casual and serious gamers alike, Ronnie O'Sullivan's Snooker is one of the best implementations of the sport I've seen. And, at only 59p, it's an absolute bargain. It might have some little flaws that drive you mad at times, but this is a great game that will constantly keep you coming back for "just one more frame".
© Copyright SWSt 2011
When I use my iPhone I am always on the lookout for new apps to download and I saw Ronnie O'Sullivan snooker app as a must have.
I love snooker and although he is not my favourite player I admire his skill and the sort of passion he sometimes brings to the game. This app is all about you playing the game of snooker with the guidance of Ronnie himself throughout.
The first thing you notice when playing the app is a quick video to illustrate who Ronnie is and it offers some shots he has done and shows you a bit about snooker in case you were not aware in the first place.
When the game finally loads which takes about a minute if you watch the video you have a few options to take part in. The first is practice which is a great place to start because it means you learn how to play the game.
You play against yourself with the full set of balls at your disposal and you want to try and make a maximum break of 147 if you can which is not easy. You select the speed of the shot and the angles and just hope everything falls into place for you.
If you make a great break then Ronnie gives you a bit of confidence to make you feel good about yourself unfortunately for me the best I have achieved is just 77 which is not as good as it could be.
You also have the option of a quick match. This is where you can take on Ronnie but Ronnie throughout his years. You can play him like he was at aged 7, 10, 16, 17, 21 or 30. Obviously the younger you play him the potential is he is much easier to defeat which is not true.
You also have career mode which goes through Ronnie's career. You have to try and replicate some of the shots he did to advance to the next stage of his career. As you begin the challenges are simple enough but as you continue they get much more difficult so this is the ultimate goal for you to achieve.
The game is all about Ronnie as you can tell with what you have to do and the main objective of the game. I was however angry that no tournaments were there to play. I would have thought making you take part in a tournament as Ronnie taking on different opponents would have added a different and yet exciting option for this app.
The app at times though has faults and some are basic faults. The game can at times be very slow with some shots and other shots super quick. This is annoying because if you're trying to work out your next move the game can slow right down and effect the shot you have performed.
There is a problem also when it comes to the practice sessions you do. You find that the balls are always in the same place to start with but your cue stick can disappear so you have no idea where you're aiming and that is totally confusing. It can return sometimes but most of the time it never does.
There is a lot to do in the career mode which is excellent and the graphics for the videos you see are excellent and offer a great insight into his character. However, the graphics for the snooker table are less than impressive.
The balls on the table sometimes look like they have cracks in them and not actually round in shape so the graphics are not fantastic with the snooker table.
With the potential for updates there is none. I have had this app for around 4 months and never had the option of an update and I did pay 59p for this game which is the current price.
I would say the app has plenty to offer but fails in graphics and the silly randomness of the cue disappearing.