Pool Panic is a game created by Rekim and published by Adult Swim Games. The title itself is fitting for the setting, gameplay, and music. There are over 100 levels of craziness in this surreal world that can be quite fun, but also very annoying. Touted as “the world’s least realistic pool simulator,” Pool Panic grabs attention with its charm and unique style.
Taking control of a cue ball with tiny legs, it is your job to knock all other billiard balls into pits over the course of the game. This cue ball can walk around each level freely, enabling the player to explore and see what must be accomplished. Each and every level has its own special flair–different ball types to defeat, environments that add aspects to drawing out hidden enemies, and obstacles that can get in the way.
The overworld is very detailed and looks like a hand-drawn cartoon, just like with the level design. Walking the little cue ball around, various stages are uncovered across many different landscapes. Completing each level awards a point to raise a giant mountain, which unlocks further challenges. These challenges are akin to a puzzle game, in which the billiard balls must be knocked into pits in one shot. The regular story mode levels have four tasks to complete to 100% clear them: complete the level before the time restriction, complete the level in under a certain amount of cue ball hits, knock all billiard balls into pits, and do so without scratching (cue ball falls in a pit or the 8 ball falls in before it’s supposed to).
On top of the ball-filled story mode, there is a versus mode with two ways to play. Table mode is much like Joust, while Party mode is similar to Splatoon with color-coded objectives. Panic mode is another extra mode that is basically a time attack mode to see how far you can get in one run. The billiard balls included in this mode are randomized, so that can increase the challenge.
There are many different types of billiard ball enemies. Some will run away when targeted, some will jump over your attempts to shoot at them, and some have armor on and will stand stoically as you run into them. This enemy variety is great at keeping the game feeling fresh. Sprinkled throughout the main story mode are boss battles with bigger enemy types and machinations. These are well thought out and break the expected cycle of the title’s progression.
While Pool Panic is certainly a creative and unique experience, there are some downsides. The controls for aiming are very finicky and can get frustrating. This is especially true when trying to complete the time trial challenges and the billiard balls are all running around and bouncing along the stage. Due to the hand-drawn look of the game, I found it difficult at times to maneuver the cue ball character. It’s a unique perspective that definitely takes some getting used to. The stages vary in size, and the levels that cannot be seen on the screen altogether can be annoying, as there is no way to manipulate the camera without moving the cue ball to a particular area of the screen. This makes some shots harder than they need to be. The camera gets in the way of just enjoying the craziness Pool Panic has to offer.
All in all, Pool Panic is a unique experience, though not for everybody. If you enjoy puzzle games packed with content, it may be worth your time. I never felt the desire to go back through and complete all the challenges for each stage–just wanted to get through to see what was next. Pool Panic is a fun and crazy game hampered by sometimes inaccurate or finicky controls and a lack of camera manipulation.
Take a look at the announcement trailer here:
A review code was provided by the publisher.