Review: Pool Dominator

Another ShuffleComp review!  This one is for Pool Dominator by Destiny Spearmint (what a fantastic pseudonym!), which was inspired by the song Fuego by Bomba Estereo.  The official games list links to an English translation of the lyrics.  In this case I am going to go ahead and recommend listening to the song, and perhaps looking at the lyrics, before playing the game.  What kind of game do you think this is going to be?  What will the story be about?  Columbian street food, probably?

If you still haven’t played the game and would like to do so before I spoil anything/everything, now would be a good time to do that.

I love this title screen.  This is pure CSS, people: border-style ridge (who knew?!), border-width 0.8em, border-radius 1em.  And the colors are so evocative!  Clearly, then, this is going to be a game about what happens when the antagonist from a Glen Cook novel embarks on an epic quest to become the next WPA World Eight-Ball Champion.

Huh.  Well.  I guess that was actually… yeah.  Okay, sure, this works too.

Seriously, though.  This is a great premise, condensed into a really nice no-nonsense four sentence blurb.  Cards on the table.  No apologies.  I really like this interpretation of the song.  Because what is that song about, really?

A third click, and we’re on the main screen.  We know exactly where we are, who we are, who we want to be, how many fucks we give.  We are going to get to play the villain.  We have a strong sense of what our goals and motivations are.  We have some clear signals about how the game mechanics are going to work.

Why do I like this game so much?  This is so far from being me.  Is that why?  Seems likely to be a part of it, yes.  This is, in its own absurd way, an escapist power fantasy.  It’s the sort of thing one might fantasize about in grade school.  School was horrible, wasn’t it?  Maybe it wasn’t like that for you, or maybe it was but you’ve managed to forget all the bad parts and cling to the rosy bits?  Which might be for the best, really.

So here we instead get to choose between fun alternatives.  Oh noes, the ice cream truck broke down!!!  Will you fulfill a lifelong dream, or act like you really don’t care about such childish things?  It’s kind of fun and satisfying either way you play.  I mean only one of those options decreases your “fucks given” counter, obviously, but the other one still acknowledges the validity of your choice.  Either way, the feedback you get is super clear, so you don’t have to fret about decoding the rules and can instead focus on playing the way you want to play.

On my first playthrough, I blew my precious cash on the pizza as soon as I discovered the option to do so, then gradually decided that I had made a horrible, irrevocable mistake.  I mean not actually irrevocable — I hit reload, tried the parking lot first, and paid more attention after that.  This worked for me: The feeling I got felt entirely appropriate to the situation, and the mechanics of actually making progress once I’d decided what I want to do were sufficiently straightforward and quick.

There’s so much pure joy in this game.  Everything is interesting, everything is fun.  And everything is so unequivocal, so clearly presented.  I mean just look at this inventory screen!  Fixed slots!  I love it.

Even if this is just not the game for you, I can’t help but imagine that this becomes obvious immediately, you know?  This is not a game that is going to waste anybody’s time by trying to ingratiate itself.  It just is what it is.

In conclusion, fellow human, I submit to you that this is an enjoyable, clever, and well-executed game which you would be a fool not to at least try.  Why haven’t you tried it yet?  You’re not fooling me.  Stop pretending you don’t care and go try it already!

Posted in reviews. 1 Comment »

One Response to “Review: Pool Dominator”

  1. Andrew Watt Says:

    Belated, due to previously secret identity: thanks for writing this super-enjoyable review! I fist-pumped while reading it.

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