There are so many generic games released these days which offer nothing new to their particular genre, and are made with the intention of making an easy profit due to hitting a huge target audience. You can’t really blame the developers, but where is the risk and innovation these days? That’s why I had a keen interest in hearing about I-play’s latest game for the iPhone, Paper Boat Race, which brings an interesting and innovative idea to a gaming device plagued with unoriginality. Does I-play’s latest game float amongst the best on the platform, or sink to the depths of the App Store?
As the game’s name suggests, you simply must race a paper boat around a swimming pool, guiding it through the marked out flags and completing 4 laps before your 3 opponents. The concept is easy enough and sounds pretty vague, but the game’s unique control system is the talking point here and the feature that will likely attract attention to the game. You have your basic accelerate and slow down buttons, but the boat will only travel at a slow pace and eventually stop unless you give it a boost by blowing into the iPhone’s microphone. This simulates wind entering a real-life boats sails and pushing the ship along. Using the iPhone’s accelerometer feature, tilting the device left or right sends your ship in the indicated direction.
Blowing into the microphone which is located at the bottom of the iPhone to propel the ship along is actually a lot of fun, but the downside to this is the fact that you have to raise the iPhone fairly close to your face in order for the microphone to pick up any sound. Trying to puff air into your sails, tilt the iPhone and steer the ship all at the same time can become tricky on the harder difficulties when the turning angles become tighter and you need to use more finesse. My main issue with this control system however is the strain staring at a screen from such a close distance can put on your eyes, with mine starting to hurt after a mere 5 minutes of game time.
The lack of content in the game is also a worry. Paper Boat Race consists of 3 game modes; Practice, Arcade and Quick Race. Practice and Quick Race speak for themselves and will unlikely see much playtime, if any at all. Arcade mode is just a Championship in disguise, consisting of 5 races. The higher you finish in a race, the more points you’re rewarded, and the player with highest combined total of points after the 5 races wins the Championship. There are 5 Championships which only vary by the difficulty level, from very easy to very hard. The course around the swimming pool changes in conjunction with the difficulty selected, which provides a small amount of replayability, but not enough. The lack of any multiplayer game modes is also a concern and would be welcomed in a future update, although nothing has been announced.
While still on the replayability issue, there is only one environment present in the game and although it looks great, the lack of variety can become an issue over time. Paper Boat Racing is presented fantastically to the user with sharp, easy-to-navigate menus which are animated to give the impression they are bobbing up and down on waves, reminiscent of your paper boat. OpenFeint is being introduced into more and more games these days and makes an appearance in Paper Boat Race. Here you can see how you rank on the leaderboards in each Championship and also view which achievements you have unlocked or need to aim for in future races. Unfortunately the achievements are all awarded for winning races and all the Championships and therefore little thought has been involved, but at least there is something to aim for if you are a completionist and shoot for a high ranking on OpenFeint.
Paper Boat Race bravely sails into the App Store and gives a great first impression, providing a fun game to play and an interesting new control system which I’m sure will be copied in the future. However, the lack of content and variety harshly affects the game and limits the amount of replayability, putting doubt in my mind whether Paper Boat Race was worth the (original) $1.99 asking price. Seemingly sharing my concern, I-play has recently dropped the game’s price to 99¢.