Ok, so this game is not quite as proper as my headline would allude. Growing up, I always jumped at the chance to play pool in the random parent’s friend's basement, or bar style restaurant that happened to have a table. Thing is though, I never quite knew the rules. No one ever taught me, so it was always the basic 8-ball house rules style, so no call outs, no having to hit your own balls before colliding with your opponents, etc. It always worked fine for me, and I still managed to enjoy pool games which eventually taught me the actual rules. But Pool Panic, Pool Panic does NOT play by the rules.
Pool Panic is a wild, outrageous take on the classic bar game from developers Rekim. It's published by AdultSwim games, which makes total sense when you look at the visual style. It’s gritty and in your face, making a visual feat similar to that of Regular Show. This was another factor that drew me in. I love the look and animation, giving these typically lifeless game pieces personalities that range from angry to nervous, to bikers and campers and much, much more. I loved the various balls designs, with each one exhibiting a unique sense of character and personality traits to match. From ones that lead on and dodge at every opportunity, to the meat head balls who just like to wreck everything, and even the shy ones that run from any potential ball to ball contact. Okay, enough of the innuendo, you get the point. The game is packed to the brim with personality that would lead most to assume it was fun, and it can be. But it just does not live up to the face value.
While the trailers sold me on the concept, I do not think it quite translated effectively. The game is a cluster of ideas that just don’t work once they hit the felt. Each level has a set of four tasks to work towards, while the standard goal is to hit enough balls in to sink the black one. Outside of that, you can: Hit every ball, beat the level in a certain time, beat it with only so many hits, and make no errors. These goals earn you stars, which give you a sort of rank for the level, and beating each level further progresses you on the map. I like the set of tasks, but the controls make achieving them a daunting task. Everything feels rather clunky and sporadic, as opposed to tight and calculated like on an actual pool table. While I understand this is not your typical pool game, I still wanted the aim to feel like that. Everything is heavy handed, and it feels as if there is no way to achieve a perfect play through on your first try. While I do not mind learning and replaying, most games set up in a similar structure, occasionally you can master a level on the first try. This was never my case though, and I felt the nature of the controls made it hard to be precise and play with a certain finesse. These really killed my experience with the game.
The level design, though, like the aesthetics, was great. The world map is surprisingly sprawling, and each region has some unique levels to follow suit. From bars and woods, to dark swamps and mean streets, there is a lot of scenes to be a part of. The more interactive ones, like the motorcycle race, take the creativity to another level. I really appreciated these portions that pushed the boundaries more, making the controls a bit more forgiving.
My favorite part of the game is Panic Mode, which is almost like a survival type mode where you must clear the board within a set time or risk losing. This is an endless mode, and will test your quick reactions. I like this mode because it lets you play with the loose controls to the fullest; and quick, rapid action is almost a must. This mode really lets you flesh out the best of what the title has to offer: quick, raunchy, unforgiving pool.
While the controls stifled the majority of my adventure, it clearly wasn’t all bad. The game has a certain pizazz, and it bleeds character and life. Unfortunately, with all that behind it, it still managed to be dull, and not quite meet the expectations of the aforementioned trailer. I think there is some talent and potential here, but PoolPanic is a scratch, or a fault if you will. This misfired shot just does not quite fit the billings.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6/10
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