Overview – developed by Ratalaika Games and Yume Game Studio, with publishing handled by Eastasiasoft, Casual Challenge Players’ Club is a pool challenge game in the vein of the Data East classic Side Pocket. Take on several challenges presented by cute anime style girls, including table clear challenges and trick shots, all in a limited number of shots. This title is available on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation platforms, with links to each version of the game at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Eastasiasoft for providing the copy of Casual Challenge Players’ Club that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be skipping the story segment as there is no real plot to the game to be covered, so I will be going directly into discussing the gameplay.
Gameplay – this title is a pool hall challenge title, where the player can take on 15 different stages, over three increasing difficulty levels. The main game mode is the challenge mode, where the objective is to clear each of the tables in a limited number of shots. The first stage of each set is a standard variation of 4, 6 and 9 ball pool having to clear the table with a set score. The challenges after utilize special trick shots, where the balls need to be cleared in limited shots from specific positions.
When each set of stages is cleared the player will receive a trophy, moving onto the next set of stages after (unless it is the last batch). The challenge of the game is all in the way that players aim their shots, as there is a limited target system for the player to use. To line up shots, the player has an aim line that will extend a short distance in front of the cue ball. This aiming system can cause some issues, as it is lacking any additional assistance like trajectory of the target or cue ball.
The pool gameplay itself is fairly solid, but does have some minor flaws to it. The table physics don’t feel as precise as other titles in the genre, with the speed of shots sometimes being inconsistent with the power set on screen. This can lead to shots being missed and potentially failing a table, which means the challenge will need to be started over. Outside of the challenge mode, there are additional game modes that can be accessed from the main menu.
These extra modes are the “like a Master” mode where the player must try to clear all 15 main mode stages without losing. Then there are multiplayer modes, where two players can compete against each other on a single console. The first is versus, where the player who scores the most points will win, the second is Black Ball, where the first person to pocket the 8 ball will win. These additional modes can expand the playtime a little longer and offer some additional fun for players.
Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.
Controls – the control method for this title is simple, with only two buttons used for menu navigation and making shots. The aiming is all handled by the d-pad and thumbstick, with little else that needs to be done. The game plays perfectly well regardless of the controls used, however, there is no support for single Joy-Con play which means that two controllers are required in order to play multiplayer.
Difficulty – there are no difficulty settings for this title, with the challenge escalating over time. Unfortunately the limited aiming system does make the game harder, as an easy looking shot can be missed if target sight is out of range from the ball. The challenge for this game is high, but with enough practice it is possible to adapt to the difficulty and aim system.
Presentation – the visuals for this release are very simple, with limited animations for the table and balls. The art that is used for the characters featured is pleasing to the eye, with an anime aesthetic that works well in this title. The sound design is pretty basic, with simple sound effects for the table and transitions being implemented. There is also a mellow soundtrack that is used for this title, with a lounge style that plays throughout made up of just a few compositions.
Final Thoughts – I am a fan of the pool challenge games like Side Pocket, so I thought I would give this game a try, as the genre has been rather lacking recently. Fortunately, I had a relatively pleasant experience, even with the flaws of the aim system. I can recommend this title to those who are looking for a simple pool game. This is a rather short single player experience, but there is enough content for the modest price being asked and additional modes that add more value to the player.
In the end, I give Casual Challenge Players’ Club a final score of 3/5. This is a simple pool title at a modest price point, there are some flaws, but the extra challenge mode and multiplayer options do add a little more value to this package. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation version (HERE)