Xbox Live Arcade Review: Bankshot Billiards 2

As the most expensive (currently) Xbox Live Arcade game, Bankshot Billiards 2 has to offer something to prove its worth. That it does, with wildly fun multi-player and numerous single player games that have brutally difficult Achievements to unlock. Sadly, the game is a technological disaster waiting to happen, with countless bugs, online issues, and various other annoyances that show you why this is free when you buy the Xbox Live Starter kit.

Getting a $15 game for free seems like a great deal when you're purchasing a starter kit. There's enough to do so you'll feel like you have your money's worth even if you choose to use some Microsoft points to make the purchase (if you're not due to re-subscribe to the service soon). The play modes are widely varied, offering a solid selection of styles. Standard 8-Ball, Euro 8-Ball, Golf, trick shots, 3-ball, 14.1 continuous, and a time trial line the surprisingly robust menu.

Customization is also excellent, with different tables, cues, and music (none of which will stay on very long before shutting it off). Online play is simple to set up, though there are no private rooms. You'll have to hope your friend makes it in before anyone else after sending a game invite.

Actually playing pool is where it comes together. From an overhead view perfectly suited to the game, players have an array of things to do when they're up. It's a simple interface that uses the analog sticks, and when used in conjunction with a button, can set angles, power, height, and English. Though there's no tutorial, it's a basic system you'll have down in about 10 minutes.

Ball physics feel spot-on, obviously crucial to a game of this nature. However, they do seem to lose control at times, letting the balls drift along the felt longer than they should. It's random, and because of the touchiness of the analog sticks (with no options to set their sensitivity), adjusting your shot to compensate isn't an option.

That's only the beginning of Bankshot Billiards 2's problems. One of the Achievements is for winning 200 games. That's hard enough, but when finishing five of them without being disconnected becomes impossible, you'll never see those points. It's not only online either. You can have a group of people over and out of nowhere, the game crashes and sends everything back to the menu. Even if the 200 win barrier proves to be impossible, you don't have to worry about the rest. This one decides to hand out awards for 50 wins, even though you didn't even win a single round in the previous game.

It's all shame since Bankshot 2 features some great gameplay once on the table (assuming you stay and don't get booted for a random reason). Taking the price into consideration, it drops a few spots lower. If you landed a free download, you likely won't care. If you enjoy yourself, don't get too immersed. You never know when the next glitch will hit.

(*** out of *****)

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