Pool Panic (Switch)
Pool Panic frees billiards from the table and unleashes it into a world where everything from jungles and deserts to cities and swamps is a living pool game! You already know that sinking eight balls is the ultimate goal, but can you succeed while contending with monster balls chasing you, or ballerina balls leaping away from your well-aimed shots?
Take on the role of the mischievous, and dare we say, oblivious cue ball in Pool Panic's unique world comprised of 100+ levels while enjoying the single-player campaign, or invite your friends to join you for a multiplayer panic.
-Single player campaign includes a large world with over 100 levels that span music festivals, mines, diners, the wild west, caverns, farms, and more!
-Local multiplayer for up to four players. Multiple control modes supported, including two players on a single Nintendo Switch, using a single Joy-Con controller per player.
-Panic Mode pits your pool skills against the clock, but don't forget that all the other balls are just as animated and alive as you, so different balls react differently to hits!
OS: Windows 7
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: Intel(R) HD Graphics 4600
Storage: 3 GB available space
5 1/2 Hours
July 19th, 2018
Nintendo Switch, PC
Ever come come across a game on your favorite platform and ask, “What in the world is this”? Indie games can be creative and weird—like Pony Island levels of weird. Not quite to that extreme, but I’d file Pool Panic into that category. When I first saw the trailer, I still had no idea what it was. Some video games are like that; you don’t know what it is until you get your hands on it. Pool Panic is a billiards video game, but unlike any that we have played before. From the minds of Mike Robinson and Angus Dick, who are collectively known for Hohokum and Frobisher Says, Pool Panic looks straight out of Adult Swim’s late night lineup of animated shows. But there is much more than meets the eye.
Spiritual Themes: One of the levels takes place on a graveyard in which players must hit the tombstones to wake up Ghost pool balls and knock them into a hole in the ground. Some levels also include animated skeletons in which the player must knock them into a hole as well. There is one that also takes place within a Church.
The main objective of the game is to go to an altar after completing some levels. It raises a tower above the ground which acts as some kind of billiard-themed temple.
Violence: Pool Panic is rated E 10+ for its fantasy violence and crude humor. Players take control of a Cue Ball and knock other pool balls into the holes in each level. However, each ball has a personality and may run away, dodge, or retaliate against the player. Sometimes, players might be battling a biker gang, knocking chickens out of a coop, ruining a picnic, getting involved in a Bank heist, and many more scenarios.
Positive Themes: The fact that Adult Swim is the publisher doesn’t mean that every game they publish is fueled with adult content. In fact, they publish quality work for various audiences. Don’t write this one off simply because it looks like Rick and Morty or one of their other mature cartoons. There isn’t any sexual content or foul language to be found within Pool Panic.
The weirdness of Pool Panic is at such a degree that it took some time for me to figure out which genre it fell into. Even if it is based off of the game of billiards, I can’t exactly call it a sports game. In Pool Panic, you take a journey through this strange overworld that is inhabited by pool balls . When going into a level, it turns into a game of pool, only you’re not playing against anyone. It then becomes more puzzle-like in figuring out each stage and how to shoot the balls into a hole. Therefore, I’ve decided to call it a puzzle adventure.
The basic objective is to get all the balls in the hole, but sometimes, it’s just not that easy. With each level also comes a challenge. First of all, the balls have personalities and move around the level in their own unique way. One of the first I encountered was one that was scared to get knocked in a hole; it would cry and try to run away. Once I figured him out, I encountered one with roller skates and had a clear shot into a side pocket. Little did I know he would completely dodge my shot on his skates and make me scratch. All of this occurred in one of the first stages and that was when I knew that things were going to get much more interesting.
Each level also has a theme to it alongside the the comedic personalities of inanimate objects. Pool Panic offers a variety of things to and chaos to cause within its world. You can ruin a picnic or camping trip, put a food truck out of business, enter a jousting match, and disturb a graveyard to wake up some ghosts. Some of the levels I enjoyed include the time I took on a motorcycle gang and when I besieged a castle in order to capture the 8-ball inside and carry him to the hole he was destined for. My personal favorite was a level in which I had to trick a marching band of balls into walking right into the hole. I had to hit the 8-ball and steal his conductor hat, but he would continually try to take me out so he could get it back. This game is ultimately about causing grief to the 8-ball in any way you possibly can.
The controls themselves don’t work like you’d expect for a typical pool video game. You control the cue ball like you would any other character in a video game; he walks with the left stick and jumps with the press of a face button. Aiming your shots feels more like you’re playing pool. Pointing the right joystick—which is a giant floating pool stick—in the direction of your target will help aim your shot with lines that show where you’re aiming and the trajectory in which the ball will be going. One of the buttons gives you a full power shot while another is utilized for more softer shots so you don’t go sinking into a hole along with your target. I’m completely guilty of using those full-powered shots a little too often.
It would be rather boring if Pool Panic was only about shooting all of the balls into the pockets, but each level has something for us to work towards. Every one of them comes with four objectives: finishing under a specific time limit, finishing under a specific shot amount, finishing without scratching, and getting every ball in the pocket. These varied objectives let players complete as much or as little as they want to. I found some of these vary in difficulty to accomplish depending on which scenario I was playing. But I was able to complete all the objectives on occasion. I can see this element of gameplay hooking completionists right in, since some people don’t quit a game unless they’ve completed 100% of it.
In between the levels of Pool Panic, you will be traveling through an overworld looking for the next place to cause havoc. Unfortunately, there isn’t any clear-cut direction for you to go. The only guide you have is hints from the magical talking piece of Pool chalk—he repeats himself most of the time but can be helpful when he needs to be. The freedom of the game wants to create the feeling of discovery and figuring things out for yourself, but I often felt lost when wandering through the world. These were my least favorite moments, only because the best parts of Pool Panic are when you’re causing havoc within the actual levels of the game.
This strange world combined with the wacky personalities and the shenanigans that occur make for some great humor which had me laughing out loud numerous times. The art style also complements those things so well, because it’s something you’d expect from Adult Swim as a whole. The art of Rick and Morty is the easiest comparison to make when seeing Pool Panic for the first time, but this publisher has gone above and beyond what the brand is usually known for and it is quality work. Its overworld map is comparable to what we’ve seen from the likes of Super Mario World and Cuphead. It’s a treat to look at and is almost like a Where’s Waldo Book, encouraging players to look for all the details within it.
Included along with the main adventure mode, there is a rogue-like survival time-attack mode to unlock which is very challenging and fun to return to once in a while. There is plenty of content here that anyone can sink some extra hours into beyond what standard completion has to offer. There is even a multiplayer mode that can make for some great fun if you can get some friends or family together to embrace the chaos of Pool Panic. The portability of the Nintendo Switch is great for any way you decide to enjoy this game and increases the chances for some of that multiplayer fun to occur.
In the few times I’ve tried to explain the premise of Pool Panic, it has been very difficult to do so. I can tell a friend or family member about it all I want, or even show them the trailer. I could do everything in my power to show somebody what this game is all about, but it still wouldn’t compare to actually putting the controller in their hands. This is just one of those games you have to try for yourself to completely understand the concept. I’ve had many laughs and experienced some fun and memorable moments that I won’t have with any other video game. It may feel a little too open-ended sometimes, but making those discoveries is what hooked me in. The chaotic world of Pool Panic is one that I will be returning to whenever I need a quick game to kill some time.
Review copy kindly provided by Sandbox Strategies
+ Art Style
+ Clean Humor
+ Fun gameplay
+ Creative concept
- Can be too open-ended