Pools – A Review of The Things Inside Your Head – Indie Game Reviewer – The Best Indie Games

Back around 2011-2012 there was a crop of titles, ignited by the at-first quizzical and then critical success of Dear Esther, and Amnesia, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and so on that came to be known colloquially as Walking Simulators. We can add Fullbright’s Gone Home and Tacoma, and even The Stanley Parable.

10 years later, and post the VR renaissance, this has returned in the form of an obsession with so-called “liminal spaces” – the backrooms made famous by a homemade video, that gives a name to something many have experienced in quiet torment – dreams of hallways that lead nowhere, abandoned buildings, impossible large and barren shopping malls or underground spaces that have no apparent purpose, anymore.

This latent horror from this sort of latent space has been found in films like The Shining and in a series like Severance.

So where do we go after the countless Backrooms simulator knockoffs?

Drowning by Numbers

Enter Pools. A walking simulator through the pristinely tiled hallways that lead to a variety of equally pristine swimming pools, wading pools, water-filled areas, like a Greek bathhouse before the people came. Sorry, no pun intended.

So what you are left with is a beautiful showcase of what Unity does best – walking a player capsule across surfaces, with bounced light, visual bloom when moving from dark to light, really lovely looking specularity, and water shaders.

But it is so much more than that. The subtle sound design of a buzzing light, your breathing, the gentle ripples of water, the ….wait, I thought the box said there were no monsters here. Are there monsters here? WTF.

pools screenshot

Why is there a..drawing? On the wall? Are they scratched out?

I suspect it is just there to stoke my imagination. Still, I may never find out…the terror of these latent, liminal spaces and their contrast between cleanliness and unholy dark, claustrophobic connecting tunnels WHERE NOTHING HAPPENED I SWEAR except for the THINGS INSIDE MY HEAD IM FINE may prevent me, and maybe you, from ever knowing.

The contrast of colorful water slides and inner tubes with the murky pallor of dimly fluorescent lit alcoves creates more wonderful contrasts in meaning, tone, and visual excitement.

Absolute vibe from start to finish. Funnily enough, my friend found it “inspiring”, “relaxing.” Maybe the lunatic is in my head…

Why did that ladder just get pulled up into the hatch?

Inevitable speedrun videos to follow (flood YouTube).


Playing with scale, space, proprioception, light values, and the bright and obvious and the numinous and concealed, Pools something of a masterwork in the techniques of immersion – using suggestion to draw out the narrative from within your subconscious – something for which there will never be a big enough budget and for which you can participate here wholesale.

Pools is now available on Steam. A free demo of the first environment is also available.

Watch the official Pools trailer:

Originally posted by

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

We only use unintrusive ads on our website from well known brands. Please support our website by enabling ads. Thank you.