Steam Cleaning #30: Pool Panic

Pool, in my opinion, is a puzzle game. At its heart it is a game of angles, physics, and precision. When I pulled up Pool Panic, this expectation dragged me into confusion.

If my cue ball can walk anywhere, then what’s the point of angling? I can just set myself in perfect position for a straight shot! This defied all the rules of pool!

If I thought that was bad, hoo boy. I hadn’t seen anything yet.

Some of the colored balls in this game move randomly, or even dodge the cue ball! That’s insanity! Some levels require timing and speed more than precision, which is like turning a game of Sudoku into a game of marbles. It just isn’t done, and for good reason. Often these ‘puzzles’ left me feeling like victory was out of my control. I felt like a frustrating control scheme and poor design choices were holding me back. With little penalty for failure, I slogged my way through levels getting poor rankings.

And then, near the end of my required hour, something clicked. I led a raccoon ball to invade a chicken coop full of chicken balls. (Phrasing!) I knocked around balls that left walls in their trail, enclosing my arena as in a game of Snake. I found that hitting another colored ball into the dodge-balls confused them and left them defenseless.

This was no longer a game of pool. It was a random puzzler with a wild number of assorted mechanics. Some of those mechanics were funny. Some were solid. Some only worked as a visual gag and didn’t add much gameplay. And some mechanics were just plain bad or boring. Whatever the case, I never knew what the next puzzle would hold.

I started Pool Panic rather dismissive of the controls and presentation (not an Adult Swim fan), and early puzzles only confirmed that. By the end of my hour, I had to seriously consider whether the game was worth continuing. And I’m still not sure as of this writing. Pool Panic has more going on than I thought.

Verdict: 1 hour (19 puzzle levels) played.

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