8 Ball Pool was featured in iTunes new and noteworthy section a few weeks back and chosen by Apple as an App Store Editor’s Choice! It bills itself as a way to play pool with your friends. It’s partially correct.
When I booted it up the first time, it immediately asked me to log in before I could proceed. The options were Facebook (I don’t have an account there), sign on as a guest (which I assumed meant I couldn’t access a friends list), or Miniclip’s own site’s login. I signed up for an account with them which required my email address and birthday. After logging in through their site, I was given a tutorial which consisted of it teaching me to do a single shot, then I was dropped back out to the main menu.
At this point I tried to check and which of my friends I could play with, but the game told me that I hadn’t added any friends, yet. Problem is, there’s nowhere to add them. Best I can assume is that you can play against Facebook friends, or friends you add through their site via web browser. Very cumbersome when they could have just used Game Center.
So playing with my friends was out at this point. Sadly, this was the main reason I had bought the game. 8 Ball Pool also features an option to play someone at random. I went ahead and chose this and was randomly paired against an expert who promptly beat the crap out of me. The matchmaking algorithm does a horrible job of pairing up players of equal skill levels. Multiplayer games are played out in real-time, not asynchronously like nearly all multiplayer games on iOS. You have to take your turn within 30 seconds or you forfeit that turn. At the end of the game, my opponent took 25 tokens from me. A few more games and I learned that, with no tutorial, friends, or computer opponents, the learning curve against random players was very, very high. Also, when you run out of coins, you can’t play anymore without either waiting at least an hour to earn 25 more coins (enough for one game) or spending real world money!
Originally, I played the game for 45 minutes before I was broke and couldn’t play anymore. I was steamed. A friend of mine pointed out that the coins do refresh. Slowly. Players earn “hourly” 25 coin bonuses whether or not they have the game open (or even activley running on their device). However, you will ONLY earn a total of 25 coins until the “collect 25 coins” button is pressed, restarting the 60 minute countdown. So the player has to be very proactive in order to maximize their ‘free’ hourly coins. The same goes for the daily bonus of 250 coins which resets at midnight local-time.
If you are someone that plays the game every day then remembering to collect your daily coins will not be a huge deal. Despite the game being a paid app, Miniclip makes it pretty inconvenient to play whenever you’d like to. I understand the freemium model of pricing, but that model requires that your game be initially free, which 8 Ball Pool was not. When I must pay to purchase a game, I assume that I won’t be asked for more money (or have to wait unreasonable amounts of time) to continue playing the core component of the game. Paying players shouldn’t have to work so hard to get their ‘free’ coins, it should do this all automatically.
So for my 99¢ ‘buy in’ what did I really get with 8 Ball Pool? I got a game that I can’t play with my friends (due to a reliance on Facebook instead of the platform’s native Game Center), that I can’t learn how to play since (due to poor matchmaking) nearly everyone beats me, and that I have to keep throwing money at or waiting to play more games of. This is not what games are meant to be. This is awful on more levels than I’ve witnessed in a long, long time.