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Building a new kind of obsessive virtual pursuit out of the various parts of two real-life ones, Super Paper Pool combines elements from billiards and miniature golf, challenging you to hit colorful pieces into their rightful spots with a cue ball. It starts simply enough, with early holes featuring just one piece to maneuver around a winding path, but hazards and multiple pieces quickly turn each round of tables into a sometimes-brutal gauntlet. Engaging as it can be, however, the requirements for progression begin to feel too intimidating far too quickly.
With the look of a putt-putt course and the mechanics of billiards, the tables task you with sinking each colored piece into its rightful marked destination. These aren't merely spheres, however, as you'll encounter squares, rectangles, and other Tetris-esque pieces that don't bounce and react like a common pool or golf ball. That adds an extra quirk to the action, as do spikes and barriers that require keys to open. Typically, the key to success is figuring out the right sequence of shots to get through each eight-table course efficiently, without major flubs, and ultimately under par.
Super Paper Pool's subdued look — with its tables initially formed from stars in the sky or set against rural backdrops — is pleasing to the eye, though actually navigating the tables can be a pain. You'll set up the shot by moving the pool stick or tapping a tiny on-screen button for more minute movements, and then tap a button to switch to the actual shot, which requires pulling back and pushing forth the digital stick. However, interactions with the stick are sometimes misunderstood as camera adjustments (and vice versa), making the controls feel very fiddly and the interface a bit cramped. It's less of an issue on iPad, thankfully, though it irritates throughout on iPhone.
With only one destination for each piece, it's incredibly easy to botch a shot and end up with a piece or cue ball near a hazard, and have to burn numerous shots just to recover — and mulligans are handed out sparingly and are very expensive to purchase outright. Frustratingly, with later tables locked behind a severe under-par requirement, getting very far can be incredibly taxing, and it's likely to prevent many players from ever reaching the most advanced courses. Something needs to give to make progression a friendlier process, as the leaderboards seem to indicate that most players are hitting a wall with the difficulty, and playing the same courses over and over again isn't quite appealing enough to sustain more than a few attempts.
The bottom line. Progression can be a pain and the controls need refinement, but Super Paper Pool still makes an intriguing puzzler out of pool and putt-putt.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
Smart blend of billiards and mini-golf mechanics makes for an intriguing puzzler. Really pleasing visual aesthetic.
Par requirements feel too stiff following the first round of courses. Fiddly controls (particularly on iPhone) are irritating.