Truly original video games are becoming increasingly harder to find. Pool Panic is a crazy take on billiards that's as enjoyable as it is trippy so chalk up your cue and get ready to whack some balls.
I didn't quite know what to expect before playing Pool Panic. I was aware that it featured an open-world and that it involved pool (obviously) but I definitely wasn't expecting it to be as ridiculous as it is. You basically control a cue ball who can freely run around. Then, whenever you're ready, you can aim with the right stick and tap one of two shoulder buttons to either hit it hard or gently. Your goal is to sink enough balls within each stage to make the eight-ball sparkle and once it does, you can try to sink it then jump in the hole that you knocked it into to complete the stage. The simple controls combine with the freedom that you have to move around to create a simple yet open-ended gameplay dynamic that can be quite fun, especially once you begin to understand how to deal with the different kinds of balls.
Speaking of which, Pool Panic's variety of balls takes the gameplay to a much higher level than you'd expect. You'll come across super-annoying roller skating balls that move out of the way right before you collide with them, balls dressed as forest animals that only emerge when you knock a barbecue over, and of course, balls that fart. If my balls could fart, I'd never stop laughing. Anyway, there are oodles of clever situations as well that'll have you accomplish tasks such as stopping a bank robbery, jumping between carts on a roller coaster, and escaping from zombie balls. These brilliantly-crafted stages come to life with cartoonish visuals and a groovy soundtrack that make the gameplay far more enjoyable. It's one of those games that's almost as fun to watch as it is to play.
Pool Panic includes over 100 levels which is almost unheard of for a game as unique as this. I'd imagine the developers spent a good chunk of their development time simply thinking of unique situations because each one of these stages provides its own distinct challenge. Not only that, you can achieve various goals per stage such as completing it in under the par time, not losing the cue ball, sinking every single available ball, and only using a certain number of shots. Being able to accomplish such feats seems daunting but once you figure out the complexities of a stage, you can dive right back in which will make it a lot easier. That being said, considering many levels are set up like puzzles to figure out, replaying them again right away can feel quite tedious from time to time.
Now that I've mentioned tedious, allow me to explain a couple of aspects where Pool Panic starts to feel like a bit of a chore. For starters, some of the stages are downright irritating. Whether you're dealing with incredibly annoying types of balls or are presented with a situation that you just can't quite work out no matter how hard you try, not being able to complete a level that you found yourself within can be super-discouraging. Also, the core gameplay doesn't really change at all throughout. Sure, you're presented with plenty of clever scenarios but all you really do is run around, aim, and take a shot. I wish there were some additional abilities, power-ups, or anything of the sort. Being able to wear hats that you knock off other balls is fun but that doesn't add much to the gameplay.
Pool Panic is a ridiculous and enjoyable game. Although it can be annoying at times, the overall amount of wacky fun you'll have within its trippy world far outweighs any frustration that you'll experience along the way.
- + Simple and fun free-for-all pool gameplay
- + Loads of stages filled with clever and often humorous situations
- + Tons of challenges and replay value
- - Some levels are exceptionally frustrating
- - Core gameplay doesn't really change throughout the campaign
- - Playing stages again can be quite tedious