Kids are obligated to spend at least one day in their life floating paper boats in rain-swollen gutters, though problems arise quickly. The boats soak up water and capsize, or they’re squashed under a passing car, or they shoot down a sewer occupied by a child-eating clown.
Paper Boat Race puts an end to the messy inconveniences of the actual pastime. There are no crowded streets, no weak-hulled boats, no cars splashing the vessels with muddy water, no Pennywise. But the game’s sanitized racing field and repetitive gameplay makes the experience dull.
And the contestants are margin-to-margin!
Paper Boat Race appoints you as the captain of a paper racing vessel. Racing against three other competitors, you steer your ship through a course set up in a pool peppered with pool toys. Your course is marked by buoyed flags, and if you try to cut around those flags, you’ll be sent back a bit. A dark blue trail on the water’s surface helps guide you as well, though that occasionally disappears and you’re left alone to navigate through a watery wasteland haunted by rubber duckies.
Paper Boat Race encourages the player to propel their boat by blowing into the iPhone’s microphone, which proves to be a bad idea in record time. First, nobody wants to blow into their phone like a jackass on a bus or a train. Second, Paper Boat Race plays vertically and uses the iPhone’s tilt function to steer, which makes it extremely difficult to blow into the microphone while watching your progress. Luckily, there are buttons on-screen that let you accelerate your boat or throw it into reverse. Without them, the game would be unplayable.
Racing the inner tubes might be more fun.
But truth be told, there’s not much to play. It’s a sad statement to make about Paper Boat Race, which is an earnest and very cute game. There are five “Cups,” which are actually difficulty settings (“Very Easy Cup,” “Easy Cup,” “Hard Cup,” etc). There are five tracks, but they don’t vary from Cup to Cup. Once you’ve experienced all five, all that’s left is to challenge yourself against faster opponents.
Not even the toys scattered around the pool present much of a challenge to get around, though the potential is there. Why doesn’t the water become turbulent occasionally? Why don’t the rubber duckies flip out and chase your boat once in a while? Even a water-bound death match mode in the spirit of Super Mario Kart would be phenomenal.
The graphics in Paper Boat Race are as static and unvaried as the gameplay. The pool and its rubber inhabitants are rendered well, but you’ll be looking at the same environment and objects for level after level. The music, strangely enough, changes up in each level and ranges between gentle sailing music and some rocking racing tunes.
Paper Boat Race has tight controls (once you nix blowing into the microphone) and a cute concept. But without a variety of levels and challenges, it stagnates quickly and sinks to its doom.