Billiards 2 Simulator logo

Infogrames * £19.99

Isn't it strange that as soon as one unusual style of game appears, another similar game seems to quickly follow. Elsewhere in this issue you'll find a review of the superb Jimmy White's Snooker (Page 58), and what should also appear? A billiards simulator! What a coincidence.

There's an attempt to flesh out this least-exciting-of-all baize sports up with a number of variants and modes. In between sit a number of static screens to create the impression of being in a casino. There's even a choice of overhead and 3D mode but neither are massively convincing.

Unfortunately, Infogrames' version looks rather scrappy and dated next to Virgin's somewhat slicker product. If you have to play a game based on the old 'green' table, it has to be said that Jimmy White's your man. The variety and options offered here can't compensate for Jim's class.

Billiards 2 Simulator logo

Why spend £25.99 on Infogrames' Billiards II Simulator when, for a pound less, you could pick up the renowned Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker? Or, for a great deal less, why not plump instead for MicroProse's 3D Pool on budget?

The answer is, because neither of these options would let you play 'billiards', of course. And in going for one of the other games you'd also miss out on some of Billiards II Simulator's wackier, French features, such as the option to play 'crazy pool' on an octagonal table with one pocket in the middle (it'll do ordinary pool as well), and the slightly peculiar main menu screen with its pool hall sound effects.

That being said though, taking up either of the other options would see you ending up with a much better game. Billiards II 's main problem is the near impossibility of lining up a shot properly. In 2D mode, even with the help of the rather cumbersome 'ball path' option, it's very hard to tell where the ball's going to go. It's a bit easier in 3D mode, but the table rotates in such large increments that any level of accuracy is very tricky indeed. The shot strength meter doesn't help matters either. It wobbles up and down and you have to try to stop it in the right position - a very silly idea indeed.

The whole game's pretty silly, actually. It's awkward to play, lacks any sort of coherent 'feel' and just doesn't make the grade.

Billiards 2 Simulator logo

Television has been responsible for smartening up the image of snooker in recent years. It's not very long ago that to admit you played snooker or billiards and, worse still, went to a club to play was to almost admit to having a shady and decidedly dodgy character - it's a wonder what a bow-tie and waist-coat can do to improve your image.

In Billiards II, Infogrames have chosen to present the game with a very glam image, all DJs, evening dresses and hostesses. 'Imagine a billiards club, on the borders of a vast wooded park,'enthuses the blurb. It certainly makes a change from the days when most snooker halls seemed to be above Burtons the tailors.

Here you are given a choice of three types of games: French billiards, which uses three balls; American billiards, a 15 ball game; and Futuristic billiards, basically a couple of fun games played on odd-shaped tables.

Choice of game is made through a screen called the reception hall where you click on one of three doors to access the required version. You can also select one or two-player or training selections from this screen. Once the selection is made you have the option to show the colour of your money and bet on the outcome of the game.

Taking control is fairly simple. Click on the cue ball and the cue appears as a straight line. This can be moved around to get the desired shot. Once the position has been selected an icon known as the English Indicator appears. Quite why it's called this remains a mystery, but it allows you to put spin on the cue ball, and to decide the power of the stroke. Once selected, the stroke is carried out.

During play you can also access a series of icons to alter cushion and table friction, among many other options, plus an option to see play in 3D.

And that's basically it. The rest is up to your skillful play. Would-be pool hall hustlers and pot shot heroes should check it out.