Pixel Boat Rush ($1.99) by XperimentalZ Games is a frantic combat boat racing game that will keep you busy for hours. If you enjoy pixel art arcade games that are fast-paced and challenging from the get-go, then Pixel Boat Rush (PBR) is for you. It’s similar to other games like Riptide GP2 and even Tiny Wings.
I grew up in the ’90s, when pixelated games were all we had. So it’s no surprise that I’m pretty much drawn to every pixel art style game that pops up in the App Store, right? I’m usually not that big of a racing game fan, but when you make it full of blocky pixels with boats and guns, well, color me intrigued. That’s why when I saw the trailer for Pixel Boat Rush, I knew that I had to give this a whirl myself.
The visuals in PBR are positively delightful, especially if you are like me and grew up with the pixelated art style in games. Even with the 16-bit graphics, PBR is rich in detail for all of the various areas you’re racing in, and the game world is bright and colorful. The boats all take damage from the environment and each other, and the game features pixel damage — you can see bits of the boat fly off as it takes hits, which is cool. The animations are super fluid in the game, so there is no lag as you play. The chiptune soundtrack is also a joy to hear, so I recommend grabbing a good pair of headphones as you play this one. Plus, the sound effects are fun and quirky.
There are two game modes in PBR: Career and Arcade, though you will need to start with Career to make Arcade available. When you start Career, you’ll have to go through a tutorial to earn your license for a boat, and these little stages show you the ropes of the game. I found them a little frustrating at first, but they do help you get a basic understanding of how the game works, which will take some time.
As you play PBR, there will also be opportunities to get new licenses, which unlock more racing events that you can participate in. To obtain a license, you have to complete a series of mini-quests.
The game has 15 different racing tracks for you, as well as 100 different racing events across seven different types of races, so there is a lot of content here. The different races include normal, ceasefire, eliminations, demolition, carnage, last man standing, and endurance. The type of race is clearly indicated in Career mode, so you can prepare yourself for the chaos. I love the variety — it keeps things fresh and interesting for each event, so it’s never the same experience consecutively.
The controls in PBR are simple and intuitive. The button in the bottom right will make your boat accelerate, and if you need to slow down, just release your finger from the screen. The button in the bottom left is for shooting with your equipped gun. The top of the screen will show you the speed you are going and the status of your ammo — the guns need to reload as you go.
Things seem easy with those controls, but it takes time to master. The water will have waves in it, of course, and if you speed over these, you will gain air, but that’s not always good. Sometimes you will want to gain some air to collect a power-up or avoid an obstacle, but if you go too high, your boat can explode into bits or crash. If you’re in the air, just release the accelerator and you’ll fall back to the water faster. To gain momentum, it’s better to stick to the wave itself, which is done by slowing down as you go up, and accelerating on the downward slope. To top it all off, you’ll have to manage all of that while shooting obstacles and other boats in front of you and make sure you don’t get hit from behind.
Regardless of what position you finish the race in (consists of three laps), you will earn some coins and tools. But if you can place in the top three with gold, silver, and bronze, the rewards are greater. These can be used to purchase 50 different boats, all of which have their own upgrade configurations — some boats are better than others for certain events, so you’ll want to experiment with different ones. Boats can also be equipped with over 20 different types of guns so you can blast away the competition.
Like any racing game out there, PBR is great for competition among friends. There is full Game Center integration for both leaderboards and achievements. You’ll also want to replay levels until you are in first place on every race, because you can earn special trophies. PBR has high replay value and tons of content.
It took some time to get used to it, but I’m enjoying Pixel Boat Rush so far. The visuals are awesome, the chiptune music is marvelous, the controls are simple but difficult to master, and the gameplay mechanic is challenging but fun. This is perfect for anyone who enjoys boat racing and fast-paced, frenzied arcade games.
I recommend checking out Pixel Boat Rush if you’re looking for a fun arcade game to keep you busy this week. You can get it on the App Store as a universal download for $1.99.