There have been countless video game adaptations of billiards over the years, but none have tackled the sport quite like Pool Panic. Developed by Rekim Games and published by Adult Swim, Pool Panic is a humorous, demented, and above all creative pool adventure game set in a world occupied entirely by sentient balls.
Self-described as the "world's least realistic pool simulator," Pool Panic very loosely follows the rules of billiards. Your ostensible goal is to hit the cue ball into the other balls, knocking them into the pockets around each level before sinking the 8-ball to complete the stage. You use the right analog stick to line your cue up and press either the right trigger or shoulder button to perform a hard or soft shot, respectively.
That, however, is the extent of the game's similarities with traditional billiards. Pool Panic puts you in control of an anthropomorphic cue ball, so you can freely maneuver him around the stage to get the best possible shot. On paper, that may sound like it takes all the challenge out of the game, but Rekim steadily introduces new mechanics and gameplay twists to keep the experience interesting and unpredictable.
Pool Panic also features an impressive variety of ideas and stages, with more than 100 spread across a huge world map in the full game. Nearly every level puts some unique spin on the gameplay. Early on, we ventured into a forest level occupied by ball-shaped bears that would attack when we approached them. To clear the stage, we had to enlist the help of a nearby lumberjack ball, who would follow us around and scare the bears into the holes.
Another level put us in the driver's seat of a moped cruising down the highway, with the challenge being to knock the biker pool balls off their motorcycles as they sped past us. There's an impressive amount of creativity to the levels and challenges, and the game's manic charm made it one of our favorite titles from PAX East 2018.
In the video above, you can watch us play through a handful of stages from Pool Panic, including the aforementioned forest level featuring the bear balls. Adult Swim Games hasn't announced a concrete release date for the title just yet, but it is slated to come to Nintendo Switch and PC later this year.