Stunning graphics and sound
It's a little hard and tough to turn until you upgrade
|Time Played||4 hours|
|Game Progress||95% with Zed - All races Gold, all style points 4 stars minimum|
Anannya Sens Review
It's like playing Wipeout on the water. Another gem from Fishlabs.
Whenever we get a new Fishlabs game we have to usually fight over who gets to review it. Luckily, this time it was me so I get to tell you all about Powerboat Challenge.
When you first load up the game you will probably notice the stunning graphics. I don't know how Fishlabs manage to do it, but they really push the capabilities of each handset. On my K800i the graphics were stunning 3D rendered polygons of powerboats, marshes and lakes. The water effects are lovely, as are the lighting effects. This includes reflection and even lens flare and at times I had to remind myself that this was a mobile game.
If that wasn't enough, the sound is really great too. Plenty of different tunes during the game, all matching the fast paced frenzy of the racing genre. There are tones too when racing round the buoys and Fishlabs have even managed to sneak in some voice effects on the selection screen.
Controls take a little getting used to, but that's down to your boat being fairly raw to begin with. As you win races and upgrade, they become smoother and smoother. You can use the stick or pad to turn left and right, and 5 operates the turbo. 8 or down will slow your speed, but why would you want to do that?
Right, now the aesthetics are out of the way let's get onto the gameplay. This is a racing game of the highest order. When I first played it, I was a little disappointed by how clunky the boat felt and how hard it was to turn. You see, it's not just a normal race, when you are on the water there are numerous buoys you have to navigate. These will point to a direction which means you have to pass them on that side. The red ones point to the left, so pass them on the left. Green points to the right so pass to the right. You'll get used to it very quickly. And the closer you are to the buoy when you pass it, the more your turbo bar will fill up.
Basically what this means is if you can race your powerboat as if you were slaloming down a ski slope, you will fill up your turbo pretty quick. Of course this isn't that easy to do to begin with, but once you get used to the controls you will be alright. As you pass the buoy, the distance will also be rewarded with a rating, from ok (just passsing on the correct side) to perfect (where you go so close to it, it looks as if you might hit it). If you miss a buoy, you lose all your turbo bar and the boat slows down. Miss 3 buoys in a race and you are disqualified.
Like most Fishlabs games, you can upgrade your boat. This is where the fun begins. On the main mode you have a choice of 4 different characters, each with their own boat and attributes. I went for a guy called Zed who has the same afro as me (if I let my hair grow that is). You play through 4 islands with different events on each one. As you win races you get medals and cash and this will allow you to buy parts to upgrade your boat. Win enough medals and the next island is unlocked. The upgrading element made the game hugely enjoyable. It was done really well, with more stages of upgrade being available the further you progressed. The upgrades would have an effect on your top speed, acceleration, agility and turbo.
And they have a huge effect on the boat. As I mentioned, when you start off, the boat is hard to control, but a few upgrades later and you will be zipping around as if you were playing Wipeout. It's really that good. You need to gauge what's best to increase each time as there are plenty of events in the game. In addition to normal races, there are time trials (self explanatory), eliminator courses (the last place racer on each lap gets knocked out) and best overall where it's not just about where you come, but how you race.
Yep, there's even another element to the game. With all the racing aspects, winning medals and unlocking more islands, you also get a style rating on each race out of 5. This has an overall bearing on your completion percentage, although to really get high style marks, you might have to come back to races later on after you have upgraded.
I can't stress enough how much fun this game was to play. Once you get a few upgrades, the boat moves like a dream, and I ended up being able to do Batman style turns (90 degrees). This really helped too as the last island is full of sharp corners. That's another great thing about this game, the graphics are so different on each island. There's the swamp lands, the icy seas up north, the tropical rainforest aspects and the final tournament island. Each looks different and plays different, obivously the ice level means your boat slides around a little bit and the rainforest level has tight winding rivers and obstacles.
The difficulty curve is also pitched just right. I was whizzing through the islands to begin with, but really had to concentrate to play the third one. Also, it doesn't matter too much about whether you upgrade properly or not as for once, you can sell the upgrade and get your full money back!! This also adds a tactical element if you are short of funds as you can continously tinker with your boat. Should you go for agility in the time trial levels, then sell off some of those parts to increase speed and acceleration for the races? That's down to you, but later on the AI gets tough in a very physical way!!
In conclusion, I couldn't put this game down. Day or night I was wanting to have a quick go, either to get a gold medal whereas previously I had got silver, or to increase my style points on a race I had already won. It was that much fun to play and after completing it with one character, you can play through the game again to upgrade another character. In most games this wouldn't be too much fun having played the game so much already, but with the stylishness and addictiveness of this game, I am seriously considering doing just that.
An absolute stormer of a game that is another magnificent offering from Fishlabs. How do they keep doing it?