For a racing game with essentially two buttons, “Pixel Boat Rush” demands an unexpected degree of driving finesse; thankfully, it also delivers a satisfying amount of carnage.
Luck, in the end, however, plays its hand too heavily in this colorful 16-bit-style combat-racer. This is what made me eventually abandon the game. I was happy playing through the career mode at first, but once the difficulty spiked, I found myself losing races due to chance more than anything.
The controls for driving the boat are as follows: you touch the right side of the screen to go, you touch the left side to shoot guns. That’s it. Very simple. Driving though, is made much more difficult than what one would expect in a racing game with with two directions to control. The main issue surrounds the way your boat reacts to waves. If you speed recklessly, the waves make your boat launch up into the air. Being suspended in the air makes your boat lose speed, so the name of the game is to brake before the waves so that you don’t fly off.
Personally, I think it would have made sense for the developers to swap the controls. Having your finger control the gas on the right side means that it’s constantly in the way.
Another gripe I had with Pixel Boat Rush’s controls is that once the player gets the hang of braking, the game begins to feel more like a rhythm game, rather than a racing title. Since all you have to do is brake at the right time, the sweet-spot becomes ingrained after a few play-throughs, at which point most of the challenge of actually racing is sucked out the game.
The combat aspect of the game doesn’t fair much better. Because every lap begins with racers receiving new ammo, you are much likely to blow up as you clock a new lap, since the racers behind you unload their guns immediately. I found that I had to distance myself from the other boats just to survive the checkpoints, which was an interesting dynamic at first, but became frustrating on the harder levels. Plus, this dynamic of carnage at the checkpoints means that when a boat gets away from the pack it is virtually impossible to catch up with them, because you’re still fooling around with dumb explosions at the checkpoints.
Pixel Boat’s graphics proved another strike against the game. The developers went for a retro look, hence “Pixel Boat Rush”, but the smooth curves of the waves and the polished look of the menus ultimately detracted from their supposed “retro” aesthetic. It was like watching a sprite Mario fight a perfectly rendered boa constrictor.
In conclusion, Pixel Boat Rush is fun for a while but in the end a pain to play. The weapons are a constant nuisance, the driving gets dull very quickly and the graphics are what you would expect from a coloring book. If you’re happy with the game’s first few hours of amusement, you might not be too disappointed, but if you are looking for something more in your games, Pixel Boat Rush’s overly simplified gameplay and overly sharp difficulty spikes are sure to bore and frustrate, in that order. At the end of the day, missing the boat in Pixel Boat Rush’s case, is probably not such a bad thing.
For a racing game with essentially two buttons, “Pixel Boat Rush” demands an unexpected amount of driving finesse.