Waterlogged Edition – Games Asylum

In an industry fast approaching fifty, it’s easy to take a lot for granted. Smash Boats is a physics-based fighting game, with a dozen toy boats gliding around bathtubs, paddling pools, and more. They swing and capsize, it’s possible to bomb dive and submerge, and many attacks are physics-based – ranging from projectiles to punches. It wasn’t too long ago that something like this was considered state-of-the-art, especially reminiscent of the infamous PS3 rubber duckies demo. Still, it took me about 10 minutes to realize that Smash Boats is probably crunching a lot of numbers behind the scenes.

The game itself is relatively simple. It’s about choosing a boat – with a surprising amount of choice, each with different forms of attack – then battling waves of toy boats and rival submarines. During battles dummy ships carrying purple stars appear, and it’s essential to do everything possible to sink them and collect their precious cargo – a certain number of stars are needed to unlock the next location. Stages are short, but plentiful, gradually introducing new enemy types or featuring an interactive object or two, like a bubble wand that can be used to dive into a bomb.

Helping to induce more variety is the bonus feature of the “Mayday” missions – including a couple settling into a poo-filled toilet, one of which also has a urine fountain to avoid. While crude humor has its place, both of those missions seem out of place in something otherwise family-friendly.

While it features arcade-like sensibilities, such as a bold and brash presentation, Smash Boats is nonetheless reasonably demanding. Smashing enemies is the default attack method and lining up shots takes seconds – think taking a hit in a pool simulation. Enemies gang up quickly and some must be attacked from behind to avoid their spinning blades in front. Health recoveries are also slow to regenerate, meaning they should only be used when badly damaged. Effective use of other bonuses, such as 2X damage, can turn the tide of a battle in an instant.

The later stages, in particular, took us a few tries to complete. A lifeline is sometimes provided, in the form of a nuclear bomb that can potentially destroy an entire wave. Experimenting with crafting can also be the key to success. It is worth trying each of the dozens of boats for at least a few stages, as they are sufficiently different. One attacks with spring-loaded boxing gloves that only hit the sides, while another has a forward-facing frying pan. The Ghost Ship, meanwhile, can turn invisible for a few seconds to confuse enemies.

The controls are responsive throughout, giving the ability to turn tighter, dive to avoid incoming attacks, and back up.

If you think that sounds like the perfect formula for a multiplayer party game, then you’re right. There’s only one catch – this Xbox One iteration launched without the new MP update. So, for now, it’s the vanilla experience, hence the moniker “Waterlogged Edition.” If you want to hit the pool with friends, the recently updated Switch version is currently the only way to do it.

While far from the deepest of experiences – and it’s perhaps appropriate that a game set primarily in a paddling pool is a bit shallow – Smash Boats gets a surprising amount of right. It’s satisfying to destroy multiple enemies in quick succession, the difficulty curve is well judged, and the mechanics have subtle nuances. If you’re looking for something a little different, feel free to dip a toe in. There is nothing sinister lurking in the depths below.

Smash Boats: Waterlogged Edition is available now on Xbox One and Xbox Series. A version for Switch, known simply as Smash Boats, is also available..

Earnest A. Martinez