Overall Score 54%
RC Bumperboat Challenge
I'm sure that when Mindslide Gameworks created RC Bumperboat Challenge, they didn't intend for it to be a puzzle game. But after a couple of hours wrangling with it, the most satisfaction I got from the game was working out exactly what I was supposed to be doing and how to do it. There is no instruction, apart from a small in-game dialogue box that lists a few key controls, and that's it! The omission of a small manual or some basic tutorial is inexcusable. Had I not been reviewing the game, it would have been deleted from my PC before I'd even worked out what I was supposed to do.
RC Bumperboat Challenge is an arena/skirmish type game featuring remote controlled bumperboats on a variety of ponds and other locations. It's good for single player or two player split-screen action. Although there is a time trial mode, where the player is tasked with getting through one fixed obstacle course in as fast a time as possible, the main focus of the game is on the skirmish modes that are played out in 8 different locations.
Bear in mind that nearly all of the information presented here that describes the gameplay is derived from my own extensive playtesting, and much was not immediately obvious or documented at all. The player controls a boat using either the mouse, WASD keys or an XBOX360 analogue controller. The controls allow the player to turn left and right, accelerate (but not brake?), shoot waterbombs, and apply a speed boost which is limited in duration. Other boats are controlled by the AI and drive around in random patterns or, in the case of the split screen game, your opponent. There seems to be no way to include AI boats in the 2 player game. Newtonian physics goes out the window and is replaced with manic gameplay. As two boats collide they are both sent flying away at an accelerated pace in somewhat unpredictable angles. Even the small waterbombs that can be shot from the front of your boat can propel your opponents at a ridiculous breakneck speed into barriers, targets (more on these later), and other opponents. A high concentration of boats in a small area generally ends up with a random pinball type of melee, and any strategy is often nullified by the outrageously exaggerated physics.
In skirmish mode, your goal is to be the last boat standing. You can win by either chasing your opponents around and hopefully getting lucky by bumping them into targets or, as I have increasingly found, simply try to stay out of harms way for as long as possible, and then move in for the kill when just a couple of boats remain. Each time a boat runs into a red target sign (either by their own stupidity, by getting trapped or by being rammed into one) they are issued a red flag. Boats are eliminated when they accumulate their 3rd red flag.
I have some major issues with the game as it stands. The physics make the game feel like you are controlling a puck on an air hockey table, and not an RC bumperboat at all. If this is by design, then so be it, but I really think that the game could be much more fun if the boats handled as such. The water and environments look quite good, and even the water surface is animated and reflective. Sadly it has absolutely no effect on the gameplay whatsoever. The game cannot be paused or saved (unless there is an undocumented way and I haven't found it yet). All the usual culprits like Esc, F1, Enter, Ctrl, Tab and Shift were tried to no avail. Sometimes one round can go on for up to 10 minutes or longer, so being able to pause the game at will is vital. The tournament mode that sees the player battle through all 8 levels of the game (and also unlocks the for free play) has a button in the interface to load a game, but no way that I can find of saving one. The only way to quit the game mid-level is to force the game closed through Windows' task manager. On some levels like the time trial mode and a specific level in the tournament, players can get snagged on fishing lines. There seems to be no easy way to release yourself from this, but I'm sure that there must be some way. More than anything, a manual that lists key game concepts and a comprehensive list of controls and keystrokes is required.
The in game music is on a very short loop and gets repetitive very quickly, and sound effects seem to be a little muted compared to the loud voice-overs that announce when boats are eliminated from the match. Level design and artwork are good enough to make each stage feel different (and draw the player on), but the game is certainly not setting any new benchmarks for quality in audio or graphics.
After all stages have been unlocked in tournament mode, there seems to be little left to play for. There is a war mode which is essentially a skirmish against a team of AI boats with the player teamed with a lot of AI boats. After being eliminated any boat can respawn at the cost of one ticket, and once all tickets are gone, it's a battle to the grim end. Since most of the action is AI vs AI in this mode, the player will generally win in the end game, after a very tight contest. The player can control how many reinforcement tickets are available before the game starts.
The game is bereft of strategy and the action elements are highly unpredictable. In a nutshell, the game just doesn't have enough meat on the bone to hold my interest for very long, and in my opinion, it just doesn't feel finished at this point. As a beta release or concept work, I think it shows some promise, but at $9.99 it's going to be a very, very tough sell for Mindslide Gameworks.
Keywords: rc bumperboat challenge review, mindslide gameworks reviews, mindslide gameworks games, rc bumperboat challenge scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.