Platform: iPhone & iPad
Subpar Pool supplies the most inventive twist on pool mechanics since Pocket Run Pool. Somehow, developer Grapefrukt (maker of Holedown, Twofold Inc, and Rymdkapsel) is even less concerned with the rules and regulations of the source sport.
From procedurally generated tables of varying shapes and configurations, to the swapping out of sequential scoring for a ‘par’ mechanic borrowed from golf, Subpar Pool choose fun over fidelity at every step of the way.
You’re not really punished for potting the cue ball – indeed, the game actively encourages it as a viable tactic for improving your position. Meanwhile, you can start your next shot while the cue ball is still rolling, with a delicious Matrix-like slowdown effect coming into play.
The goal remains to pot every last ball on the table using your smiley-faced cueball, using a simple tap-and-drag control system and a handy angle-guide. But beyond those familiar fundamentals, the game unfurls into a joyously bright and breezy physics puzzler.
Pretty soon you’ll be unlocking new twists on the formula, with teleporters and magnetised balls joining the fray. The latter comes via a steadily growing deck of modifier cards that can fundamentally shift the way the tables play out.
The simple early introduction of super-sized balls completely changes how the cue ball responds, for example, creating severe new angles for the cue ball to ricochet off at.
Beyond simply clearing each small collections of tables, you’ll be given special achievements to strive for – potting three long shots, for example, or potting so many balls after downing the cue ball.
Despite all this positivity, Subpar Pool doesn’t represent a total clear-up. The control system isn’t quite as slick or instinctual as it should be given its inherent simplicity, while positioning the cue ball near the cushions with balls in close proximity feels a little janky.
But the simple joy of potting balls in such a variety of configurations doesn’t get old – or at least, it hasn’t in the several hours we’ve been playing the game.
It helps that Subpar Pool is so nice to look at too, adopting a simplistic yet stylish primary-hued aesthetic filled with anthropomorphised balls and gaudy wallpaper-like backgrounds.
Subpar Pool takes the kernel of physics-based brilliance at the heart of pool and builds a fantastic casual puzzler around it. This is your cue to go and buy it.