Pool Panic is a wacky billiards game unlike any other. Play as a mischievous cue ball and try to pot the 8 ball whilst contending with monster balls in areas that range from the wild west to music festivals.
The first thing that will stand out is Pool Panic’s colorful and unique art style. The game certainly has that ‘Adult Swim’ cartoony vibe to it. Pool Panic is bursting with color and imagination, with weird and wacky themes and motifs that you wouldn’t think to find anywhere else.
Pool Panic doesn’t mess about with explaining too much and almost puts you straight into the action after an incredibly brief tutorial. The overall aim of the game is to complete the required amount of levels in order for the centre tower-hill-thing to ascend.
The gameplay and mechanics are very intuitive. The L stick allows you to run around (as you’d expect); the right analogue stick brings out the pool cue and allows you to aim; press the ZR button to do a hard shot and press the R button to do a soft shot. You can also walk around in order to brake and prevent the ball from falling down a hole. For the most part, that’s it. The rest of the challenges simply come in mixing up the levels’ challenges as well as some balls having different abilities (being able to roll away on skates or run away in fear as soon as the pool cue comes out), providing a wide variety. Each level has optional challenges for the player to beat, such as completing the level within a certain time limit, potting every ball before potting the 8 ball, completing a level without having used the sock to the get the white and 8 balls out (five points to anyone who can tell me the significance of the sock) and completing the level having only taken so many shots. These challenges add a whole new optional level of difficulty.
Later puzzles become very imaginative and require some out-of-the-box thinking from the player. Some levels may seem frustrating at first, but once you solve the puzzle, you feel a level of accomplishment as you pot each ball.
Pool Panic runs quite smooth, which is absolutely essential for a game that requires precision aiming. However, it can tend to struggle in handheld mode when there are too many things happening on the screen at once.
Some worlds provide some unique puzzle solving, which is fresh for a game that is so unique in itself. For example, needing to knock the meat off of the barbecue so that the raccoon balls will come down from the trees. Other worlds attempt to mix things up entirely by making you complete a level without a pool cue (we won’t say how, but they can be pretty fun!).
There are some added side challenges which take place in some strange and wacky places. These challenges can often restrict you in how you can move or complete the objective.
Whilst the game mechanics may be intuitive, the camera angles can be quite awkward. Whilst the game does give you a large scope of the map, the view is fixed at a 45° angle and pans as you move. This often makes it difficult to see what is happening at the bottom of the level, leaving the player unsure whether there are any balls left or holes to pot balls into. This could’ve been fixed with arrows pointing to where the remaining balls are, but unfortunately that is not the case.
Certain challenges can feel awkward and disjointed, and whilst you have to praise the developer’s ingenuity, they can make the challenge feel less satisfying. In the end, it just gives off a sense of relief when finishing them.
Traversing Pool Panic’s overworld can become confusing as you explore without a map. The game also neglects to inform you of some small but important details, resulting in some confusing moments.
Despite putting you straight into the action (which we love), there lacks a sense of plot and progression. A basic plot (even so basic as the princess being in another castle) drives the player along, providing motivation and working towards an organic goal. Not having that plot (especially in a game such as this) means you are simply just hitting balls into holes in wacky scenarios for no reason whatsoever.
Final Score 73%
Pool Panic has some truly unique moments that could have only been a result due to its truly unique gameplay mechanics and wacky premise. While the draw to this game may be in its own flavor, going from one level to the other without any plot progression often results in player fatigue. The gameplay can feel awkward at times with it missing that final round of polish and uncomfortable camera work, but the mechanics are well implemented and very responsive.
Will you be picking up Pool Panic on Nintendo Switch? Let us know in the Comments section below.