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RIP my free time, as Holedown dev returns with new ball bouncer Subpar Pool

"Where golf and pool collide"

Artwork for Subpar Pool, showing a colourful scene with smiling golf balls
Image credit: Grapefrukt

As friends, family and long-time RPS readers can probably attest, reverse Alleyway puzzler Holedown became a mild obsession of mine a few years back. Every spare idle moment I had, I'd be bouncing balls down its infinite planetary mining silos, mesmerised by the vacant stare of its iconic white Holedown worm (my record is still 1090m, in case you're wondering). It's a most joyous day, then (as much as it can be on a day like today), to hear that solo developer Grapefrukt will soon be back with another ball-bouncing beaut in the form of Subpar Pool, which is coming to PC (and phones) on October 12th.

The reveal trailer below tells us it's a game of "playful pocket antics where golf and pool collide", and yes, I'm into this immediately. Admittedly, the trailer doesn't give much else away, apart from the fact it looks like it will have a similarly captivating mascot with a dead-eyed stare in tow. Thankfully, its accompanying screenshots and website tell us more.

Each level will be procedurally generated, and the aim is to pocket the available balls in a set number of shots - that'll be the 'sub par' bit of its title, then. You'll also be able to play cards from a deck to influence the type of course you'll play, and the challenges you'll face therein. There's a Fast Run, for example, which adds a time limit, and you can also opt to play with glass balls instead of regular ones, or ditch the bounce line altogether to give yourself more of a challenge. I'm also pleased to see the presence of another endless mode, too.

In a statement, Grapefrukt said Subpar Pool didn't actually start out as a pool/golf game. "Initially, it was a game inspired by the wonderful Japanese movie genre of 'big monster attacks city', or Kaiju for short. The player was to fling themselves along city streets and wreak general havoc. However, as development went on the game changed shape, walls could no longer be destroyed and the more I approached traditional ball games, the better it became. Once I figured out the card-switching mechanic the combinatorics of that really opened up what the game could do."

A blue pool-like table where a white ball is being aimed at two orange ones in Subpar Pool
Image credit: Grapefrukt
A top down view of a pocked pool course in Subpar Pool
A ball is about to be fired through a white portal to hit an orange ball in Subpar Pool.
Image credit: Grapefrukt

Given you're still aiming and firing balls off round-edged surfaces, I imagine that Subpar Pool probably will, in all likelihood, be a better experience on phones than it is on PC - much like Holedown was despite its eventual Steam release. Still, I'm keen to see how the two versions differ. It's been an age since I've had a really good phone game to keep my occupied in quieter moments - I've recently migrated to the NYT's free daily sudoku puzzles, but they've long since become time wasters I can polish off in 15-20 minutes tops. I'm in need of something more nutritious, and I can see Subpar Pool fitting the bill perfectly, both on my phone and as my new Dorfromantik crutch on PC.

I'll hopefully have more thoughts on Subpar Pool closer to release on October 12th, where it will launch on Steam for €10/$10 (UK pricing TBC), and iOS and Android devices for around a fiver.

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Katharine Castle avatar

Katharine Castle


Katharine is RPS' editor-in-chief, which means she's now to blame for all this. After joining the team in 2017, she spent four years in the RPS hardware mines. Now she leads the RPS editorial team and plays pretty much anything she can get her hands on. She's very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests, but also loves strategy and turn-based tactics games and will never say no to a good Metroidvania.