Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Review Context: I am always a fan of games that try to put their own spin or reinvent a game we already know. The only fully completed game that I can recall doing that well recently is Rocket League.
Date of Playthrough: July 2018
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 540 @ 3.07GHz
RAM: 8 GB
Video Card: GeForce GTX 950 2GB GDDR5 ACX 2.0 SC+
Resolution: 1280×720 (Windowed)
Disclosure: This review was based off of a review copy.
Pool Panic, developed by Rekim, is a game that completely came out of nowhere for me. The traditional game of pool has been adapted into an arcadey experience with wacky cartoony characters and elements. Published by Adult Swim Games, everything about Pool Panic clearly fits them, as you are dropped in a large cartoon overworld filled with over 100 levels. When you start the story mode, you begin on a traditional pool table, but don’t worry this is just a tutorial. You then get to the meat of the game and start in the overworld in the ever-growing spiral tower that gets taller as you complete levels. As the tower gets bigger it unlocks various things along the way.
The main difference between a regular game of pool and Pool Panic is that in this game you are the cue ball and you can move around as much as you want in any given level within the restrictions of the level. You are also allowed to take a shot with the pool stick (on yourself, the cue) whenever you want. As you begin your first level, whatever level you choose it to be, you will notice on the top left of the screen signature trophies or achievements. The game doesn’t really explain the trophies, but they aren’t that difficult to figure out either. The first one is a timer, which you get if you finish the level before the time runs out. The second trophy is a stroke counter, similar to a “par” in golf, which displays the number of strokes you are allowed to take in each level. If you finish the level within that number of strokes you get the trophy. It is important to note that every time you shoot the cue you are deducted a stroke, even if you hit nothing. The other trophy looks like a sock or a boot, which you retain if you don’t scratch with the cue or 8-ball. Luckily, there isn’t ‘game over’ in a level when that happens. The last trophy looks like a stack of balls, which you get if you pocket every ball in the level. Each level has a certain amount of balls you need to pocket before going for the 8-ball, which can be displayed iin the top right of your screen. This means in some levels the number of balls you can pocket exceeds the number of required balls you need to pocket. During my playthrough I don’t believe I got all four trophies in a given level, which gives Pool Panic extended life for those 100% gamers out there.
During my playthrough I continued to be amazed level after level at all the different scenarios and spins you were placed in. In every level balls take on various forms depending on the setting. The first time you encounter each level you will be more in exploration mode to check out what the mechanic is in the level. Most likely you wont get a trophy, except maybe the stack of balls trophy. That’s what floored me about Pool Panic, a vast array of levels that require different approaches to each. Unlike a regular game of pool, in this game the balls walk around, some can attack you, pick you up, and make completing a level a living hell. For example, there is a level involving zombies that turns other balls into zombies, including yourself if you aren’t careful, which counts as a scratch. I wont spoil the other mechanic in those zombie levels. The 3D layouts of all the levels are of different sizes and various setups that make you appreciate Pool Panic even more. The game also has bosses, including a final boss that can be unlocked before beating every level.
The controls of Pool Panic are probably the biggest drawback, especially using mouse and keyboard on PC. I was able to play the game in window mode, although frustrating hitting things on my desktop while aiming, because the full screen mode for mouse/keyboard isn’t calibrated that well. The game recommends controller, but I found when I was able to aim well the game worked out ok with mouse and keyboard. Although it was recommended, the controller just didn’t work right for me when I tested it. The game does feel like you are playing a twin-stick shooter at times, because of the level of dexterity needed during some parts is high, especially if you are trophy hunting. When you do charge up to take a shot there is no way cancel or back out of a shot, which is on my wishlist. Unfortunately, the options menu has no options for mouse calibration, no sound controls except a music mute option, and no rebinding of controls. Although I was able to work through with the controls, I have to admit it was a bit of a letdown that the mouse and keyboard controls were released in the state they were.
There are other modes in Pool Panic, like VS Arena Mode and Panic Mode. VS Arena mode is local only, but players get to choose whether to play on a pool table or a random set of variables that were in the game, with the players competing against a time limit for getting the most balls in. I didn’t play a game of it myself, but I dipped in just to see what was. Panic Mode is unlocked in the game as you defeat levels, and this is a time challenge of getting balls into the the pool table pockets, dropping time extenders that can be picked up to help complete the level. I found this mode to be pretty fun and I will probably play more of this moving forward. Another unlockable is the ability to play all the levels again with a ghost trailing you, which seems like a ‘heroic’ type mode. I tried one of the first levels, and even that wasn’t easy, so I can’t imagine the later levels. The soundtrack in Pool Panic is for the most part very good, with the exception of the sound in the loading screen after defeating levels, which is very annoying. I am slightly disappointed the announcer in the trailers isn’t there, but I can forgive that.
Pool Panic is a game I hope everyone eventually plays, as it provides hours of fun just in the story mode alone, including plenty of replay value when you factor in the trophies and other modes. Rekim put together an excellent game with lots of content and originality that makes it a solid contender to be my favorite game of 2018. Once the mouse and keyboard controls are tightened and options menu expanded, I will feel at ease recommending Pool Panic to everyone.
Similar Games Liked:
Rocket League (PC)