Billiards video games are a dime a dozen and to be honest, most of them don’t compare to the physical game itself. Not to say the game of pool is boring of any sort, it just doesn’t end well when it’s presented digitally.
But developer Rekim has done something different with its sport-adventure game, Pool Panic. Adult Swim’s self-proclaimed “least realistic pool simulator” is more than what is to be expected in a game of billiards.
Pool Panic, released for the Nintendo Switch and PC, takes the typical game of 8-ball and has it consume a psychedelic substance.
At the start of the tutorial level, it places you, a cue ball with legs, on a general billiard table accompanied by bizarre pool balls. A friendly cue chalk greets you and instructs the player on the objectives of the game — to land all the object balls into pockets before lastly knocking in the 8-ball for victory.
You can forget basic billiard rules here since you get to move the cue ball anywhere on the playing field. Once you are ready to take a shot, you use the right stick to aim the cue onto the cue ball and when locked on to the ball of choice, simply press the ZR or R buttons to fire a strong or soft shot, respectively.
Each level’s main objective is to pocket the selected amount of balls into the vastly different spots on the ground. The game features less typical pockets now as most of the areas require you to hit the object balls into potholes scattered around each level. It may sound easy at first, being able to walk around and reposition yourself, but the challenge comes from the different balls on the table.
Object balls all have different personalities and traits that change with each mini-game style level. You have the basic red balls that shake in fright when being aimed at and yellow ones that run away from you, but then enters a green goalie-like ball which blocks incoming shots, and a grizzly bear ball that charges at you when aiming. These types of behaviors change the game and adds uniqueness to levels. All while adorned with awkward extremities and the notorious Adult Swim faces. Though it’s not just the characters where you see Pool Panic’s artistic glory.
Rekim’s billiards game is hand-drawn and that talent can definitely be seen throughout each level. The game’s puzzle levels are all accessed on a free roaming open-world hub. The hub world’s environment is decked with vibrant animation and charming atmosphere as you walk to each level to engage into more abstract worlds. Going from level to level is pleasant just based on the curiosity of what is in store next.
The game focuses on different terrains throughout the hub world. There’s a spooky forest, a pyramid covered desert, and a suburban town, to name a few. Each level has a gimmick for how its supposed to be completed. For instance, there is a level where you must steal an 8-ball’s battalion in order to lead a marching band of balls into the pocket, tuba and all. There’s another level where you must end an 8-balls time in the shower by destroying a heater in the basement, then angle shot the censored ball to the desired pocket.
With over 100 levels, Pool Panic is packed with a wide-range of challenging puzzles to complete. Completing a level is not rewarding at all but the overall humor of the game is enough to keep you wanting more. It also lets you skip around the hub, not limiting you to finish any level in particular order.
The game appears limitless at first, but this boundless nature dulls after completing levels without any narrative other than some simple guidelines on where to go next. The inventiveness keeps going but without much else to accompany it, which in the end hurts the overall goal of getting to a climax.
The game is simple enough and allows any player to fly through levels. Game overs do not exist in Pool Panic and you cannot fail a level. Instead, the game offers players four optional objectives to master. These consist of hitting in all the object balls on the map, limited amount of shots, time limits, and avoiding a scratch with the cue ball. After a while, trying to perfect each level comes without reward and you begin to move on for the sake of variety, rather than wanting to return and 100% everything.
One noticeable fault the game has is its camera which you have no control over. This can be troublesome when trying to aim for a ball or pocket that’s not on screen. This doesn’t help the fact that the aiming is already sensitive when trying to keep the cue still or when nativagating your character who seems to move farther than you intended it to.
There’s a local multiplayer mode that adds a lot of replay value to the game. The four player party mode gives the game a fun spin to its already insane amount of randomness. The party mode roulettes players into a random mix of mini-games to complete head-to-head in. Along with customizing your ball with a hat, the game features a face-off mode for anyone looking to knock their friends into pockets and become the champion of this shtick of pool.
Pool Panic is without a doubt an original game that rightfully belongs on Nintendo’s portable console. The genius of Adult Swim’s cartoonish-style offers players an unique experience in the world of this insane game of billiards. Although lacking of a story and in times having to deal with a messy camera, Pool Panic offers a lot more than what you might expect from a game based on the sport it’s based on. At first, the level’s fundamentals are without stress, which improves later on with more difficult challenges. The mini-games get repetitive after a few hours of gameplay and finishing each level’s optional requirements can easily be forgotten. The quirky game is without a doubt fun and even though these flaws are easily recognized, you can overlook them for the insanity the mission’s layouts provide you.