Genre: Sports Developer: Virgin Interactive Publisher: Virgin Games Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
I have some what of a lore story to tell as a way to pave the way for this review. The time: circa 2003. I still lived at home with the parents, and I had friends around all the time. We loved playing pool back then, and in downtown Fox Lake, IL a really nice and classy billiards hall named Bay Billiards opened up next to the movie theater. They charged by the hour, which was quite nice, so we always played several games of pool there, and I used to take the ladies there off and on too. Ah, the days before married life! Bay Billiards really earned a place in my heart because the owner got his hands on an authentic full-sized Snooker table that was built in 1895. It was truly a site to behold (Snooker’s popularity is miniscule at best in the US), and I loved watching the owner play on that table; he really could play a game of Snooker at that. The few times I got to play with my friends were quick ones, but they were magical to me even if I did suck. I considered myself lucky see one because Snooker tables are almost unheard of in the States.
Fast forward to 2009 and I went back to that pool hall finally and found out that the owner wasn’t making any revenue on that table, so he sold it. I think I died just a little bit that night because it was gone, and I know deep down that I’ll probably never see another table again. I really missed Snooker, and video games based on the sport are pretty tough to come by too, so when I got a chance to get a hold of the European Mega Drive exclusive Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker, I jumped at the chance to help fill some of that void though I knew it would never replace the real thing.
I finally got my copy and was really excited to play it. I popped it into my console, and what’s this? It wouldn’t boot up past the title screen no matter what console I tried it on. I scrounged around on the net and figured out how to install a region switch on my model 1 Genesis and got it working just fine, despite running about 10% faster that it would run on a PAL system. My next obstacle was trying to overcome the almost straight vertical line of a learning curve. Once I read through the manual I started making progress with this game and actually began to really enjoy its mechanics, despite my helplessly sucking at this game. Let me tell you Snooker is a sport that will separate the men from the boys because it’s one deep game, be it the digital version or the real thing!
Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker represents the game of Snooker remarkably well. I’m not going to explain how Snooker plays or its rules, as that would take several pages in and of itself, but if you want to brush up on how to play then you can check this article out. Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker has a nice set of options. You can practice or play real games. There are four difficulty levels in the form of player names. It starts with Tom being the easiest, then Dick, then Harry, and then finally Jimmy being the hardest. It’s a nice comical touch. There’s trick shooting modes which are best for practice and some two-player modes. Each practice and trick mode also allows you to set up the table and move the balls where you want to help sharpen your skills.
If you’re going into this with a mind set that this is just another game of pool, and that you’ll have no problem with this, then guess again because this game is quite hard. The table is 6ft. by 12ft., and the pockets are smaller and have sharper cut angles so all of your pool skills will be lost here. Snooker requires you to completely change and redevelop your skills. Virgin captured the feel pretty well here. This game gives you so many options and in-game tools to aid you with your shots that it will surprise you. The scaling and rotation of the table is remarkably well done, and this game is far more polished and refined than most other billiards games on some of the newer consoles. If you can’t figure out how to make the best shot (something that happened to me all too often) then you can ask to the computer to give you the best shot which will usually save you.
Like most games, it’s not without its handful of flaws. There’s nothing wrong with this game to ruin it, but there are some things that need to be pointed out. One of the problems that hindered it is that there are just some shots for which the game just can’t seem to provide the right angle of visibility. Several times I was left making semi blind shots because I couldn’t see the pocket from the angle I was shooting from, and it made relying on the CPU-assisted shots all the more mandatory for me. It all fairness, this probably happened to me only about one out of ten shots or so, so it’s nothing that kills the game for me. It just made it a tad tedious for me. The graphics are nice and crisp and make the game easy to play, and the flies flying around on the screen and the balls making faces at you are nice touches, but it needs a bit more pizzazz. Different colored tables or something small like that would be nice. Again, it’s nothing major to worry about.
My final and biggest complaint about the game is the audio, or lack of audio to be more precise. This is a problem that seems to plague most of the 16-bit golf games for me as well, but there are minimal sound effects. The sounds of the cue hitting the ball and the cue ball hitting the other balls are accurate, but when a ball is pocketed the sound effect is really weak and minimal. There’s also not much in the way of music either. There’s a rather weak intro tune and another victory tune, but they’re not that great to listen to, and all the weak audio as a whole creates somewhat of a monotonous feel to this game. More than once I wanted to grab my Ipod to break up the monotony.
Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker isn’t a perfect game by any means, but it’s still one of the best Snooker games released on any platform. I’d call it a sleeper hit as least in the USA as probably no one’s ever heard of it, and it’s understandable as to why it was only released in Europe, where Snooker is far more well-known. I can’t recommend this to just any and everyone because it’s probably a bit too deep and complicated for the average gamer. It’s not a cheap game by any means and will cost you a decent amount on eBay. It also requires a region mod on a NTSC console before it will work, so keep that in mind if you decide to pick this up. Otherwise, it’s will worth the time and effort, and I am wholeheartedly glad to have this game in my collection and I hope that my review of this game has done justice to and shed light on this rather obscure game and maybe just someday I’ll manage to find another Snooker table in America. Just maybe…
SCORE: 8 out of 10