This one might have squeaked out just barely too late to be part of this week’s round-up of new games, but I’ll be darned if I’m going to let that keep me from picking it as our Game of the Week. I have been playing Subpar Pool from Grapefrukt Games pretty much nonstop since it released yesterday, and it keeps surprising and delighting me in ways I didn’t expect. You probably know by now but Subpar Pool is a blend of pool and golf, hence the very clever name. You have a limited number of shots to pocket each ball on the table, and if you do it in less than your allotted shots then you’re essentially finishing the table under par, or sub-par. See? Clever.
That all sounds fine and dandy on paper, but it’s beyond this blending of mechanics where Subpar Pool starts to really shine. Namely this is in the form of different tables that have unique elements that affect how you play, and different cards that you can unlock that will also augment the basic rules in various ways. Tying all this together and giving the game its sense of progression is a laundry list of different challenges to try and achieve with both the tables and the cards. You unlock new challenges and new levels by completing existing challenges, so it sort of feeds itself into a progression loop that makes it very hard to not play just one. More. Round.
Two examples of the types of things you’ll see. Gateways is the first level you’ll unlock after the starting level, and its namesake indicates its unique attribute: Gateways around the edges of the table that act kind of like portals. Shoot a ball into one gateway, it’ll come flying out the other. You can use this to pocket a ball that doesn’t have a direct clear line to the hole itself, and there’s also a number of challenges that require you to use the gateways in different ways. Another early unlock is the Chonker card, which sees huge mustachioed balls on the table in addition to the normal sized ones. These guys are bigger and heavier to hit, and again there will be a bunch of different challenges that utilize the Chonkers in different ways.
The aiming and shoot mechanics are so approachable and perfect for the touchscreen, so you can focus solely on getting the right angles you want and making magical things happen. Far and away what makes Subpar Pool so special is the number of completely once-in-a-lifetime shots you will make, either on purpose and planned or totally by accident. Either way it makes me jump out of my seat and holler in excitement every time, which has been weird for my family. There are so many chaotic situations you’ll find yourself in, and sometimes you’re absolutely certain you’re screwed only to take a total last ditch effort shot that miraculously bounces around and does things you never even imagined with all your balls ending up in the pocket and you passing the level. Maybe even picking up a challenge or two along the way.
Besides being a clever premise with strong mechanics that blend elements of two sports together in really interesting ways while simultaneously being perfectly suited for mobile play, Subpar Pool is about those amazing and memorable moments more than anything, and that’s why you need this one in your life.