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    Pool Party Review – Cue (And Fun) Starts Here

    Pool Party is a game that, at its core, features chaotic, psychics-based pool games. This is, of course, the type of pool that you play with a cue, by the way, not the swimming pool! And you can play it with a friend locally to bring the party and chaos from the game to life!

    This is the first title from Lakeview Games, so I was very excited to play the game and see what magic and fun they are cooking up over in Switzerland. When I first launched Pool Party, I initially imagined a water-based game that would take place in a pool. So when I found out otherwise from doing some research, I got even more excited. A game in which you have to control your power, angle, and other aspects while also engaging in combat or a cooperative, team-based game sounds extremely exciting to me.

    There were immediately so many possibilities that came to mind regarding the chaos that could happen just during casual gameplay. I am glad to say that most of those possibilities I imagined were quickly realized and more quickly came. However, the game suffers a bit from a lack of single-player content, which, when playing alone, became clearer session by session.

    Nostalgiac Beginnings 

    Immediately upon opening the game, you are greeted by a launch screen and the game’s main tune; after that, you are taken straight to the menu. That’s it, but when playing a game like this, I realized that it was all it needed quickly. Games like these, couch co-op/versus multiplayer party games, don’t need a big fancy menu to stand out or be the best. Sometimes simplicity wins in the end, and here it certainly does. Pool Party stands among a crowd of games that come out in today’s times that do take you back to the PS2 era of games. I remember times when you might stay the night at a friend’s house to grind a whole game in one night or the days when Nickelodeon GAS existed and all of the shows would have their theme song.

    The music that plays upon starting the game invokes those feelings of nostalgia. So that means that the game right from the jump is off on the right track while giving players both a visual and audio message of “Come jump into the fun,” even from their first time booting the game up, which is a massive positive to note, especially in today times.

    As mentioned, you can jump straight into the fun, but I feel that due to the big list of modes the game has, giving a list beforehand of the modes featured in the game would be of service. The game’s full modes are Party Mix, Free-For-All, Football, Tennis, Idol, Pool, Jinxed, and Sumo. Pool Party offering eight modes at launch is honestly very impressive, considering the game is made by 9 people, and again, this is the studio’s first title that has shipped. But the question remained beyond the impressive face that is being presented: is the game any good, though? Let’s dive in and discuss each mode you’ll encounter!

    Chaos, Fun, and Everything A Party Game Needs

    Pool Party’s first main entree course is a big battle between you and three other CPUs or friends, and you four all battle it out on the battlefield, or should I say pool table? Anyway, the mode itself is quite simple and helps you get a grasp and glimpse of both the chaos the game has to offer and a small piece of the gameplay possibilities and potential. It features stages that rotate and appear at random (not on a fixed cycle), and they range from a wide-open pool table to a pool table with a hole in the middle to a table with bouncy protectors on the table to throw you off.

    No matter which table you get, things always go down differently, especially if you crank the difficulty up to medium or hard. That is when things, in my own opinion, ramp up. The CPUs begin to move faster, hit harder, and begin to target you. And I will say that while this was a fun difficulty ramp-up, it was a bit too hard. It felt like I became target number 1; while that isn’t necessarily bad, it is when it lasts for a decent amount of time before I would either win or die.

    The next mode is Football, or is it fútbol? In this case, and looking at what time of year it is, thankfully, it is the latter with the 2024 Summer Olympics coming up. The mode pits you vs. one other person or CPU; if you play with three people, the game will fill in the 4th with a CPU and then four players. Of course, it would be a 2v2 match (this can also be set up as a 2v2, 1 player, and 3 CPUs). It is a very fun mode that makes me feel relaxed yet very challenging simultaneously, as I regularly play FC ‘24 and am used to the rules of soccer in video games. This is mainly because the chaos gets to shine here very much due to the game’s physics. I do not know why I did not get the real feel of the physics in Free-For-All mode, but in the football mode, the physics shines bright. Turning up the difficulty enhances the mode even more with a genuine threat of a challenge being posed by your opponent.

    The third mode Pool Party has to offer is Tennis. Admittedly, I do not know much about tennis other than the Williams Sisters, Rafael Nadal, and Coco Gauff. But do know that the players grunt when they hit the ball, that the sport has a certain etiquette culture to it, and most of all, that it’s fun to watch. So admittedly, when I saw this mode, I thought, “AWESOME!!! I would love to play tennis with pool balls; that seems awesome!” But sadly, I came away from this mode, feeling as if it was the weakest mode that this game had to offer. It only has 3 table layouts in rotation for the mode. Unlike the other modes where there is a hole or a goal or something to aim the ball into to give it a certain degree of challenge every time despite being wide open or not, this mode has the scoring goal point as just an open back.

    While tennis in real life does this because it is the sport and how it is set up, this is a case where, to me personally, not everything from real life will translate well in video games. The open ending just left the challenge window too wide open. That isn’t to say that it is nonexistent at all. The challenge window is still there, and what is there is good. Again, the psychics shine bright in this mode, with you having to roll and aim and think faster than previous modes have required you to, and the ball has a timer on it, so you have to keep the action going constantly. So, would I call this mode a “whiff?” Certainly not, but I will say it is not my cup of tea.

    Idol is the next mode to be looked at, and I will say that this might be the mode to get a whole group or party screaming out of intensity. Idol is a game mode where you have to hold on to a crown for the longest time possible to win the round, also welcome back to the table are holes and multiple layouts and those change this up a good amount. The physics here aren’t the main show this time; I think it’s the table layouts, and it’s the pure violence that breaks out immediately as the time says, “Go!”. As soon as that happens, it’s like all the players shoot towards the ball like they are playing Rocket League, and all the punching and bouncing starts to happen. Then, all of a sudden, the table begins to shake with intensity with the round as it is going.

    Now, on top of that, the counter is ticking louder, higher, and faster, which is causing everything and everyone to start to rush and target the crown wearer. Finally, one player’s counter reached the maximum count, and they won the round. This mode is the mode I loved to play and can not wait until my next get-together to bring out; it is an absolute treat of a game mode that feels like the question, “How do we get players not just to have fun but scream and fight to the end during it?” was asked during the development of this mode and they accomplished it very well.

    Let the Good Times Roll

    Pool is a game that is synonymous with bars, cool environments, and good times with friends, among many other things. But it’s also a fun and competitive sport that takes a lot of skill to get somewhat decent at. Lastly, it is also the sport and/or activity that this game is based on, so I had many high but tempered expectations going into this mode. I am happy to say that, walking away from this mode, I am very satisfied with what I played. It is not a traditional pool, which already made me want to take a deeper look at it, but instead, it is a mode where you have your own ball color. You have to shoot that into the designated corner, which will be rotated during each round.

    During each round, there is a timer, so the game doesn’t just go on forever. The player who has the most points scored at the end of the timer wins the round, and that is if no player reaches the maximum amount of points (12). It features a rotation of tables ranging from having all 4 holes to only 2 of them and from having bouncy bumpers on them. Regardless of the chosen mode, this version of Pool is leaving me desiring to go back and play it as I write this. It is extremely addictive. The physics gets to shine a lot here, the table layouts are great, and due to the chaos that is going on, getting a good shot off is not 100% guaranteed due to other players bumping into or shooting your ball or shooting yourself since you are a ball too. I liked this mode due to the many factors that led to my having fun.

    The second to last game mode that Pool Party has to offer is Jinxed, and it is essentially a game of Hot Potato that works on a timer basis. Whoever is possessed by the ghost has the end of the timer to get rid of it to another player, if not they die for that round, and this keeps going until there is only 1 left and you move on to the next round. That takes place on the same table. Every round, there is no variation or change-ups. Just you, your opponent(s), and a ghost that possesses the players. It is a fun mode that pits you up against friends, and I can imagine that the mode is fun with friends, but by myself against the CPUs, even when playing on the hardest difficulty, it was boring, though surprisingly not as much as the tennis game mode from before. 

    Finally, the last game mode that Pool Party offers outside Party Mix is Sumo; I will say that this mode was my favorite, and I am very happy they included it. Sumo is exactly what you might be envisioning: pool balls on a tight circular pad, and any slight tap could send you flying off, thus ending your round, though you must win 2 rounds to win the match. It is so fun, though; this is another mode where the game physics and stage layout work perfectly well, even though there are only 2 layouts. You and up to 3 other opponents are on a circular pad that rotates every round in a body of water but you can not kick the other players like in modes before, you can only do power shots.

    This made me feel very tense because that meant that I had to be careful of my power and be extra precise on a small board, but I loved it! This was my favorite mode to play because it is so simple. It handicaps you in a way that isn’t necessarily bad, but what makes it bad is the situation you are in at that table, and it creates the perfect stress storm, the type of stress that makes you lean forward in your chair and lock in to try and win. This feeling can come up multiple times per round because of the small stage rotation for this mode, one of the stages the stage falls away at the edges as time goes on, so eventually the platform becomes too small. It is such a small but powerfully fun game mode that I return to it in my free time.

    On the menu, you can choose between Party Time! and Tournament Mode. Party Mix is the game’s recommended mode, and it shuffles the game modes. After a match, it gives you 3 game modes to choose to play from the list above in the next match. On the other hand, Tournament Mode locks you in for the long haul for the party mix mode or any of the other 7 modes individually, and whoever wins enough matches wins the tournament.

    A Promising Release

    To wrap things up, Pool Party is a fun party game that I would certainly put on if I were to host an event, whether it be professional, friendly, or familial. The game itself does struggle from a lack of content when it comes to stages, but I would note that those struggles come up and shine in certain modes.

    I will say even though, at times, I felt the slight fatigue one might get from playing party games alone, the game kept me coming back in my free time to try the game even more and to get better. These problems might also have been more glaring to me because I reviewed the game alone, without playing with my colleagues online. I think your enjoyment of this game will largely hinge on whether or not you’re playing with friends. Naturally, this is a party game, so it is understandable this is the case. However, in the future, I would like to see Lakeview Games add more single-player-focused content to welcome players who might want to relax and play on their own.

    Besides this, the game is as packed with content as one might expect from a game like this, and that is great, considering again that this is Lakeview Games’ first release. I’m very excited to see both where this game goes and what the studio does next. If you’re in the mood for some classic party game chaos, Pool Party is an excellent choice for a guaranteed fun time.

    Mindscape provided Final Weapon with a PlayStation 5 copy of Pool Party for review purposes.

    SUMMARY

    Pool Party is a great physics-based game that features a concept I have never heard of before. While it lacks slightly in content, it more than makes up for it in the fun factor category. Its fast-paced matches and fun ways of mixing pool with a certain activity or sport are certainly something that I would recommend to any fan of party games or if you have an event coming up. Lakeview Games did a great job with its first release, and I'm excited to see what they do in the future.
    Trey O
    Trey O
    Hi everyone! My name is Trey and I'm in college for Video Game Design. I am an environment artist who loves sports and anime, as well as talking about them. Currently working on an indie game!!

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    Pool Party is a great physics-based game that features a concept I have never heard of before. While it lacks slightly in content, it more than makes up for it in the fun factor category. Its fast-paced matches and fun ways of mixing pool with a certain activity or sport are certainly something that I would recommend to any fan of party games or if you have an event coming up. Lakeview Games did a great job with its first release, and I'm excited to see what they do in the future.Pool Party Review - Cue (And Fun) Starts Here