About This Place

First started in late 2007, Kasey's Mobile Game Review (then just a regular feature of Kasey's Korner) started as a simul-post between here and IGN. Later I realized there's no reason to post it twice, when I can use the traffic on my own site. so, here we are, in 2010, and the mobile game industry has grown a bit. What do you think?

KMGR of "Powerboat Challenge"

Buoy for sailing racesImage via Wikipedia

Powerboat Challenge is a fine looking title that offers a lot of play. There are four characters to play, several islands to unlock (each with multiple races), mutliple race types, and of course, lots of upgrades to the boat. Overall, it's a pretty good title. Not quite best ever, but certainly one of the better racing titles to come along in a while.

The initial load time is a bit long. You have to wait about 15 seconds to see the main menu on a LG enV (Vx9900). Then another few seconds after choosing "play game". You then choose among the 4 characters presented anime style. They are a black guy with big Afro, one Korean kid, one big Australian bruiser, and one Euro girl. Each has his or her own "home island" and often offer tart commentary like "this ain't no surf contest, go home" or "I hope you're a worthy opponent". You get the idea.

The race modes are pretty simple... a 2-lap 4-boat race, a time trial (race the clock), eliminator (last place of lap is eliminated), mini-tournament (4 pts for 1st place, max points in 3 laps win), time trial EX where you last as long as possible but the buoys switch sides periodically. And multi-race tournament (which can be composed of any other race types).

The race itself is relatively simple. You're supposed to go around the buoys. Go to the LEFT of red buoys, and RIGHT of green buoys. If you get REALLY close to the buoys (but still on the proper side) you get recharge of your "turbo". The closer you get, the more recharge you get, ranging from ok, to good, to perfect. And you will need to use those turbo boosts to get the best times. If you miss the buoy... you slow to a crawl, and you lose the turbo you've accumulated.

In the multi-boat races, the other boats can get really frisky, and it's better to keep your space rather than get in close and mix it up, as you can be pushed sideways and off the buoy. And you can only miss TWO buoys per race. Miss a third one, and you're disqualified (last place). Though the boats cannot be damaged, they slow down if you brush the shore, hit other boats, or even miss the buoys, and that's bad for your run. And you CAN get stuck on something, so there is a RESET button for the boat.

The upgrades all cost money... and there are four areas for improvements... engine, electronics, spoiler, and turbo. Spoiler enhances agility, while engine and electronics improve top speed and acceleration. Turbo enhances... turbo, of course. (improves boost duration). And the upgrade really do make a difference, especially the spoilers, which really enhances agility, and help you make those tight corners and get the best results. On the other hand, it's not clear which parts are cumulative and which parts are improvements (i.e. B is better than A, and replaces A, instead of having both A and B).

If a particular event is really beating you, you may want to go to a different island, win some events, earn some prize money, buy an upgrade or two, then come back to retry the event.

As each island has multiple events, each can earn bronze, silver, or gold, and there are multiple islands and multiple characters, this game does have a lot of replay value, as each race can turn out differently. However, replaying an event you've already won does not earn additional money.

Graphics are some of the best available on mobile phone. Game was reviewed on LG enV, not exactly a 3D powerhouse, but was able to do good 3D graphics in this case, powered by the Abyss Engine. All the objects have textures, and little details abound to convince you that you are on a 3D course. There are even options to turn off eye candy like lens flare and water reflections to further improve the frame rate.

However, the difficulty level seems to be a bit uneven. Even with the engine upgrades (3 out of 4), I get outpaced by AI boats at the third island. And I don't see how can I make enough money (another 2000) to afford the final engine upgrade in order to beat the AI. By comparison, the AI at first island is slower, and at 2nd island is an equal match in speed. So it's a rude surprise that the AI boats are actually faster.

All in all, this is one of the better racers out in recent days. If you can stand the odd difficulty level curves, you should get a kick out of this racer.

Score: 8 out of 10
Pros: nice graphics, full 3D, 4 playable characters and lots of race types
Cons: some boats are just NOT competitive, AI can be VERY hard to beat

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