The great thing about video games is how you can take on a certain role and enter into a world or time not like ours and roam its streets. Either as a cowboy in the wild west, a space marine on a giant ring, squid kids following fashion, and now a cue ball living in a land of living billiards.
Pool Panic is published by Adult Swim games and is the type of game you’d expect from them. To call it bizarre doesn’t do it justice. Pool Panic is wacky, trippy, and even a little ironic. The premise is simple. You are a cue ball and you must sink all the balls till you have potted enough to sink the 8 ball and clear the level, but there is of course so much more than that.
The controls are incredibly simple to get to grips with. You can move, aim and have two types of shots. After this brief tutorial you are allowed to roam the majority of the map and take on its massive 100+ levels. A number that seems daunting and simply monotonous, if it simply boils down to potting balls. Whilst for the most part true the variety of tasks to take on in Pool Panic is absolutely staggering and impressive.
Pool Panic is essentially a puzzle game. With each level normally having a solution beyond simply potting balls, the map, the balls and other conditions make each level feel incredibly unique. The majority of levels don’t take place on a billiards table, but rather in the locations around the world. A forest, gardens, rooftops, farms, caves, snowfields, on bikes, the beach, and many more. To further add to this mix the balls you must sink all have different attributes. Some run when aimed at or dodge out of the way, others chase you, some stomp on the ground and many more types are introduced to spice things up.
This combination of locations and ball types makes for a staggering amount of variety. Some levels have you on top a bike hitting rival bikers off of their ride. Another level will see you taking on protesters who have tied themselves to trees, playing air hockey, crazy golf, lighting candles, mountain climbing taking on giant spiders and so much more.
However, Pool Panic’s greatest boon is also its biggest flaw. With so much variety and all types of new mechanics being added to levels what you are left with is a few that feel totally wonky. One level had a conveyor belt that you need to hit balls onto and it would lead them to the hole, but some just stopped moving. Others had such a high hit limit that I came in so under par, that I felt like I must’ve exploited something. None of these levels ever take away massively from the overall satisfaction, but the levels themselves can be pretty awkward. Particularly if you want to clear it with all the extra medals.
The presentation in Pool Panic is absolutely brilliant. The aesthetic design is pleasing to the eye and it’s a title that will still look great in 10 years. It looks just like a cartoon and you wouldn’t be surprised to see something like this on Adult Swim. The music fits perfectly with its twist on spin on the world. With tunes quickly becoming stuck in my head. I have made the point in terms of gameplay, but want to make it again in regarding to locations and that is that the actual variety in where you go is amazing. The joy of seeing what wacky scenario is waiting for you around the corner and it really made the game a pleasure and good laugh to play.
There aren’t a massive amount of extras to get your hands on in Pool Panic. At the centre of the world map is a tower that will increase in size as you clear more levels. Once you’ve cleared a certain amount you gain access to Panic mode. Here you will have to clear tables as fast as possible to get the highest score you can. As you clear a table you will gain precious seconds. There are more rooms to be unlocked from building the tower. Most aren’t that interesting like the hat room or picture room.
There is also a multiplayer mode with single joy con compatibility and up to four players. The game takes place on a standard board and will have players all playing at the same time trying to pot enough balls so they can sink the 8 ball. It is incredibly hectic and good laugh for a brief bit of time.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Pool Panic was provided by Sandbox Strat.