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This demo for a Lovecraftian pool roguelike is my new Steam obsession

Mixing Lovecraftian themes with roguelike elements, the Pool of Madness Steam demo is like if Balatro went for pool instead of poker.

Pool of Madness Steam demo: playing pool on a table of skin and eyes on an old-timey ship

Just like how Balatro turns poker on its head and into a roguelike masterpiece, the new Pool of Madness Steam demo could do the same for, well, pool. With a simple ruleset, unnerving Lovecraftian imagery, and mechanics that kept me coming back in between writing the paragraphs of this article, the free demo shows a lot of promise for a brilliant idea, and you’ll want to download it fast.

Here’s how Pool of Madness works: you need to pot enough green balls within each round while avoiding the red and black ones, with your sanity meter depleting for every mistake you make, and it dropping to zero resulting in a game over. If that sounds simple enough, you also have extra balls with special abilities that drop in between rounds that you can use to your advantage, and potting a yellow ball rewards you with a power-up for your cue. You can then mix and match these power-ups to your advantage, which is where the roguelike game element comes in, all while avoiding the flailing fish that the game decides to drop on the table too.

While the two-person team at Bit Golem is still in the early days of Pool of Madness development, the core concept and roguelike loop show some real promise. After we all got hooked on Balatro, Pool of Madness feels like another truly brilliant game that takes an experience we’re all familiar with and completely turns it on its head.

Bit Golem says it wants “to create a non-linear story-based pool game with single and local multiplayer modes, taking inspiration from Lovecraft’s works and different game genres,” with Inscryption, Gone Home, and Overcooked cited as inspirations – I’m sure screaming at my friends while stood around a pool table laced with unblinking eyes will only end well.

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While there’s no multiplayer in the demo, I can see the Inscryption DNA in here for sure. Pool of Madness is dark, weird, and wants to continue surprising you in wonderful ways, with a pool table and cue the vehicle for whatever it throws at you.

The physics used on the balls needs some tweaking, and I can see the concept ballooning out with more mechanics – similarly to how Balatro throws hundreds of Jokers, numerous decks, and plenty of card modifiers at you – but what Pool of Madness already has in the demo itself is truly brilliant.

You’ll find the Pool of Madness demo on Steam right here, but do keep in mind that Bit Golem says it’ll only be available for download until Monday, April 8 as a part of Steam’s Lovecraftian Days – where there are some great games to check out.

If you’re looking for more we’ve also got all the best free Steam games you can try out right now, alongside some of the biggest upcoming PC games you’ll want to keep an eye out for.

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