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A LAVISH baronial retreat, circa 1900. Colonel Pemberton is about to take his turn at the billiards table. On noticing something strange, he motions to his faithful friend, Smyth: "I say, old chap. Come over here. Don't these Frenchmen take damn liberties with our game? Where are the pockets? What's this tommy-rot about Plutonian gravity?"

"I Quite agree, sir", Smyth sagely replies. "It is a frightfully boring game, don't you think? One has to make improvements to sell it".

Ninety years later, when the game was converted for the Amiga, it turned out that Smyth was absolutely correct. With only three balls on the table, Ere did do some extraordinary things to try and jazz up the gameplay.

The table is viewed in rather minimalist and unsophisticated 3D, with cue motion controlled by the mouse. You select the direction in which the cue points with the left mouse button and the angle it makes with the tabletop with the right button.

Instead of contorting yourself and splitting your trousers when trying to achieve an awkward shot, a few deft touches can rotate the table to a more sensible position.
Once that phase is over, you select the spin by moving another cursor over a small diagram of the cue ball, select the strength of shot using a slider and finally click another icon to play the shot, miss the two object balls completely and collapse with exhaustion.

The scoring system is not explained. The best thing to do is try to hit as many balls together as possible and hope the computer will be generous enough to give you a solitary point.

There are a few twists. Gravity can be fiddled with by setting the game on different planets. You can alter the elasticity of the cushions, the width of the cue tip and the roughness of the cloth.

The fundamental problem with Billiards Simulator is that there is very little challenge involved: No target score, no excitement, no fancy displays as a reward, not even a derisory beep for each point.

The graphics are reasonably good, particularly on the menu screens, and there are recognisable effects and an excellent jazz piano soundtrack which plays before the game. But they don't make up for the poor gameplay and lack of realism.