PS Vita Review – Hustle Kings

Hustle Kings – yet another PlayStation Vita launch title that can be found on the PlayStation 3 already, but the lure of added touch controls and the on-the-go nature of a portable, make it feel new, yet familiar. But is it too familiar? And are the PlayStation Vita features reason enough to warrant racking the balls yet another time?

I admit, I didn’t play the PlayStation 3 version of Hustle Kings, so I can’t speak on behalf of that version. I didn’t play it because I’m not into pool. Sure, I hit pool halls in my younger days, hoping to pick up some chicks, but unlike my picking up chicks skills, I was never all that good at pool. Aiming, especially with more complicated shots wasn’t my forte. It takes a far steadier hand, and more patience than I can muster. So why would I want to play a pool video game?

I went into Hustle Kings on the Vita with a similar attitude. I’m eager to get my hands on as many games as I can for the Vita launch, but within a few minutes of playing Hustle Kings, I thought it was going to have to be where I drew the line. Pool is a lot more complex game, with more variations than most would believe. Classic billiards is all I ever played in real-life, and maybe a game or two of 9-ball. So when Hustle Kings starts throwing trick shots or red and yellow balls at me, I was lost. But I stuck it out, and boy I am glad I did!

Hustle Kings is a deep game. It’s more a pool sim that takes place in a fictional world than a game. It’s true to life, all the way down to chalking your cue before and after a few shots. It did more than just entertain me as a pool game, but it actually helped me learn and understand the game, even the terminology. And once that started to happen, it clicked – Hustle Kings is a great game.

The sheer amount of modes and side-shows are enough to intimidate, but each is as enjoyable as the next. Start off slow using the aim assist lines, but once you get the hang of it, the real challenge comes from lining up those shots on your own. After a while, you pick up skills, and can pull off some amazing feats – like trick-shooting the cue ball over one ball so it hits another, but putting enough spin and finesse on the shot so the cue ball rolls backward to sink the first shot into the pocket. See? I learned me some terminology!

And while Hustle Kings will never bring you to where you can hustle real fools for cash in a local pub, as you proceed through the game you sure feel like a honest-to-goodness pool shark. (Honest? Pool shark? Talk about an oxymoron!) Through career mode, you learn new games, tricks and skills, all while unlocking more games, tricks, avatars and more. Winning matches, even individual shots earn you HKC, the game’s currency. Use it to buy super special chalks that increase accuracy on shots, new pool cues, and more. There are a ton of unlockables that must be earned though completing challenges, and more through purchasing from the store.

The graphics are rather stunning, despite being just a table and some shiny balls. The backgrounds vary, but most look like a million-dollar high street loft. Different views not only give you a different take on each shot, but let you get a glimpse at the game’s beauty from different angles. Strangely, some of the best looks come in the form of the menu presentation – it’s damn slick. Avatars look pretty, too – except for maybe the one I took of myself with the Vita’s camera. Too bad I can’t use that as my online avatar; then I could really let the world see my rugged good looks.

Speaking of online, Hustle Kings has a robust online offering. The modifiers that can be applied to a match are dizzying. I made the mistake of making my first challenge’s settings set to “any”, then was quickly whisked away into a match using only red and yellow balls. I lost, but because I had started learning at this point, I went back to the game’s career mode and made sure it didn’t happen again. Once I felt up to snuff, I hopped back online and schooled some fool in the exact same game. Now, that’s rewarding, and it speaks to the accessibility of Hustle Kings, as even if you don’t understand the game of pool, Hustle Kings will shape and mold you into a pro.

Hustle Kings comes free on the Vita if you own the PS3 version already. If you don’t, for a limited time, they’re a twofer. Part of this is because Sony wants to encourage what maybe the game’s most interesting point: Cross-Platform Play. Vita owners logging into HK‘s lobbies can meet and match up with PS3 owners. There is literally no difference between the two experiences, which are smooth and hiccup-free over the Vita’s built-in WiFi.

The moral of the story is, don’t judge a pool table by its carpeting, or a book by it’s cover, or something like that. I went into Hustle Kings not expecting much, and came out of it an actual king of the hustle. These skills will never transfer into making me a pool pro, but thanks to the game, I can now talk like one. Hustle Kings is a great pool sim and game all-around, with more modes than you can shake a pool cue at. The supreme amounts of polish the game and the menu have make it a nearly flawless experience. Throw in online and even Cross-Platform Play, and Hustle Kings is a seriously packed game for the price. Even if pool isn’t your thing, give Hustle Kings a try.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Did I just learn how to be a pool shark?

+ So many modes, game types, and options!

+ Cross platform play and smooth online service.

8 out of 10