My mother always told me that when you don’t have anything nice to say, then you should not say anything at all. Unfortunately when you are a product reviewer, its your job sometimes to say bad things about a title so people won’t waste their money on it. And sometimes it is your job to pick a title up and completely body slam it to the mat without mercy. Jetboat Racing is forcing me to do the later.
As I have to say something about this game, I will just keep it short and simple. My favorite game at Dave and Busters (a way-cool arcade for adults in cities across the U.S. and even the world for any of you who have never been) is Hydro Thunder, I play it every time I go, and I have been known to go to D&B just to play. I even put an hour of play on my expense report when staying at a hotel on business.
So when this game was placed on my desk and I was told that the PR folks were pitching it as Hydro Thunder for the PC, I literally dropped everything to try it out. I had my doubts from looking at the CD case, but I figured maybe a low advertising budget or something left them with some terrible screen shots. So I loaded it up and started playing. Well, from right off the bat I was not impressed. Just like what was said to Dan Quayle, I say here to Jet Boat Racing. I know Hydro Thunder. I have played Hydro Thunder. And you sir, Mr. Jet Boat, are no Hydro Thunder.
The game menu is full of bad Japanese anime characters. I like anime, but these look like cheap anime ripoffs that were drawn by someone who had never actually seen an anime feature. Perhaps if someone with a bad speech problem tried to explain to the artist what anime was, and the artist then tried to draw them, you would end up with something close to the characters here. But then, they would probably look better than the ones in the game.
Moving on from ugly characters to the actual gameplay was not much better. The graphics are dated to say the least. Had this game come out in 1980 or something, it might have rocked.
The controls are limited on the keyboard to forward, back, left, right, and turbo boost. The course layout is hard to follow even on the easiest levels. Is this a boat race or a maze? You should be given a piece of cheese when you finish a race, much less anywhere in the top three. They should give you a compass or a sextant. Sure you might lose time taking a reading with the stars, but at least you would have a chance of finishing. In Hydro Thunder, even though there are a lot of hidden shortcuts, you can always follow the main route to finish the race.
Now that I have had some time to vent, I do have to say that as a low budget game, this is not terribly bad. If I had not been totally expecting something else I might have given Jetboat Racing a two or maybe even a low-but-respectable average score of three GiN gems. On the other hand, after my first time playing the game I was a set to give it a half a Gem. In the end, I have decided to split the difference and give it one and a half GiN Gems. Fiendish should take this grade and quit while they are ahead, or perhaps just quit making games. If you see Jet Boat in your local store’s bargain rack for anything over $7.99, leave it there.