Many celebrities have lent both their names and credibility to crass games and must die of embarrassment each time they pass a computer. Jimmy White, though, can hold his head high, because the game entitled Archer MacLean's 147 3D Snooker has now become Jimmy White's Snooker. The result is a rare mix of a big name, with a big game to back it up.
This latest arrival into the sports arena is a 3D green-baize spectacular. Essentially it's a polygon representation of everything that makes snooker a test of never, skill and imagination. It proves an environment where you can check angles, line up and play perfectly accurate shots. It's not a snooker game, but a true snooker simulator.
Jimmy White himself and three decreasingly skilful pros wait to test your snookering skills in the one player mode. There's also a trick-shot editor and of course a two-player features, so you can try your cue against a friend. The score board even tells you if you need to play a certain colour, and if so which one, so an encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport isn't necessary before you start potting. The structure of the game isn't what makes the game great though, it's the playing.
A shot in the dark?
Snooker has a crisp feel to it. The table rolls swiftly in unison with the mouse, so any area or ball can be fully checked out before a shot is taken. A zoom function is only an icon or a click away, for a close-up examination or a long-
Playing a shot is icon intuitive. Click on the cue ball (or any other ball for that matter) and you're whisked to bridging distance behind it. Using icons or the mouse, you can roll the table left and right, or up and down to check the angle. Any doubts about the cue ball's line of travel, or how it will bounce off a cushion can be answered by simply selecting the projected line from the menu.
Snooker's about more than cueing in straight lines, though, and the best players will use side or top spin to control the impact and final position of the cue ball. After a squeaky chalk session, you're ready to manipulate the way the cue ball's addressed. Again it's the simple and flexible icons option which adds playability and realism without hampering speed. After that all you have to do is pick how much power you cant to wind into the shot. Then it's time to find out if all the planning was worth the effort.
Expect to spend countless hours unconsciously creeping closer to the monitor, muttering to yourself about top, side, screwing back and kissing balls.
Setting up a shot quickly becomes second nature, as does reading the perspective for longer-
The computer opponents - Tom, Dick, Harry and Jimmy - provide a flexible response to your growing snooker skill. Tom is reasonably useless, only being able to string a small break together and he miscues with regularity. Dick and Harry are pretty sharp, but neither of them will make the cut as hustlers. Jimmy, on the other hand, is unbeatable. He's as good on disk as he is in real life (if not better) and 100 breaks are everyday occurrences.
The computer plays a devious game, calculating every move visibly. This adds character to the opponents and can be used as a source of amusement in its own right. In practise mode the computer can be asked to calculate the best way to pot a ball. If deliberate obstacles are put in its path, you can force the most infeasible shots out of the machines. It's impressive but terrifying, because the same logic is used by Jimmy when he plays you! No snooker can ever been considered safe!
Snooker is a game of touch and judgement. One pixel can make all the difference between a huge break and a shameful defeat. This makes it ideal to pay against friends, because both players agonise about a shot's potential success and laugh at its failure.
Win, win, win!
Even as a single-
Jimmy White's Snooker is not without its foibles. The only downer is the slightly unsound potting effect. It doesn't quite capture the sound of a ball falling into a pocket, but you're sol relieved it's happened you don't really notice. The lighter side of Mr White's game is odd, but reassuring. If you leave the table unattended then you'll find software flies across the screen. Balls too don't like being left alone for too long as they begin to poke fun of inactive players who are taking too lover over a shot. They bring levity to a serious sim and while they seem somewhat out of place they are endearing.
The strong 3D effects make it all possible and the crafty coding brings it alive. It looks and feels like the real thing. Don't expect to swan straight in and score a 147, it won't happen! Do expect to spend many hours unconsciously creeping closer towards the monitor muttering about side, screwing back and kissing balls to yourself. Jimmy White's Snooker is an absorbing real snooker environment brought onto the Amiga. The sport even seems to benefit from the treatment, as more outrageous viewing angles are offered than the TV could ever dream of. It's like the next best thing to dragging a 12 x 6 table into your computer room and doing it for real.