We did a double-take when Paper Flight – Speed Rush arrived. We’d reviewed it a couple of weeks ago, right? Well, as it turns out, we were wrong, but the error was probably justified. We’d reviewed Paper Flight – Super Speed Dash, rather than Speed Rush. And the Xbox Store icon was familiar because they were the same – albeit with a different colour of balloon.
We shouldn’t be surprised at the two game’s proximity to each other, as Paper Flight – Speed Rush’s developer, EpiXR Games, have been pummeling the Xbox Store recently. They’re delivering games at a rate of once a fortnight, and they’ve spun the Wheel of Fortune only to find that the pointer has rested on Paper Flight.
Now, there’s a real danger with releasing games frequently. There’s a chance that the quality gets edged out by the quantity, and there’s little opportunity to learn from your previous releases. You’re just moving too fast. And you can probably guess what happens with Paper Flight – Speed Rush.
The biggest, most egregious issue with Paper Flight – Super Speed Dash was that it was completely unplayable on Xbox Series X|S. The graphics had been optimised for the Xbox One, but they clearly hadn’t been tested on the latest gen. The graphical effects meant that it was pitch black, making it impossible to see the balloons you have to pop.
We almost want to wheel out the Anakin and Padme meme. That doesn’t mean that the problem remains in Paper Flight – Speed Rush, right? Right? Oh yes, of course it does, because EpiXR hasn’t had the time or breathing room to resolve it. Yep, to play Paper Flight – Speed Rush, you are going to need an Xbox One. Or you’re going to need to turn off HDR and 4K on your Series X|S, although we couldn’t get that hacky solution to work consistently this time round.
We’ll put away our fangs for a bit, even though we want blood. After all, if you haven’t played Paper Flight – Super Speed Dash, it’s probably worth going over what you’re getting here.
This is a flight simulation where you play a paper plane. You’re tossed into rooms with the aim of popping demon-headed balloons that are scattered about. But to pop these horned devils, you need momentum, and you gain momentum from the more generic balloons. Popping these balloons fills a bar up, which in turn allows you to press A to charge at the demon balloons. So, you’re spending your time looking out for the balloons that form the level’s objective, all the while keeping your bar maintained.
It’s as flawed a premise as it was in the first game. Since you need momentum to pop balloons, you’re conserving it rather than using it while soaring through the arenas. The result is an incredibly slow experience as you pootle towards a demon that you’ve spotted on the horizon. It’s interminable.
There are waves of demon balloons, and we cursed them just as much as we did before. We know why the waves are there: they get extra playtime out of the eleven arenas. They’re nothing more than artificial lengthening, straining the teabag to get a few more drips out. But more often than not, we felt like the level was done by the time that the ‘Wave 3’ notification popped up.
There aren’t any improvements to the gameplay – no tweaks to soften our opinion. Once again, we only got the first game in the series a month ago, so EpiXR would have to be psychic to have anticipated any issues. But if anything, Paper Flight – Speed Rush feels more problematic – its problems more pronounced.
Bashing into invisible barriers is far, far too commonplace. You can be merrily beelining to a balloon, only to find yourself wall-planting into something invisible, and respawning at the other end of the arena. A museum level is a particular culprit. But what makes it unforgivable is that actual balloons – not the objective-balloons, thankfully – are in locations that cannot be reached. We know: we’ve tried. There are a handful of balloons that are just impossible to pop.
Respawn, and you’re back to the location where the last demon balloon popped. Which can be ages away, and the lack of speed means you might as well do a crossword as you cover old ground. The moments after a respawn are wonky, too: the controls become extra-sensitive in those few seconds, and it’s entirely possible to crash all over again.
And while the Xbox One is the only way to play Paper Flight – Speed Rush, there are still graphical fault lines. A couple of locations are blazing white – a level set in a field of strawberries is the biggest offender – and it can be hard to see anything at all. Finding a yellow balloon while someone is shining a torch into your face is more difficult than it sounds. And this is without mentioning the extreme screen-tearing, or the frame rate, which drops off a cliff whenever there’s more than a dozen things onscreen. A supermarket level manages to showcase all of the issues we mentioned in this paragraph to the absolute extreme. It’s verging on unplayable. It’s lucky that it’s the level that is left till last.
Trying to accentuate the positive, there are a couple of well-constructed levels here. A cafe feels believable, right down to its moss-covered wall (is there a modern office that doesn’t have one of these?), and a classroom that has just the right number of nooks and crannies. But we can’t help thinking of buts. BUT levels feel like reruns of the first game’s levels, like a space and office level. BUT you are denied from doing the simplistic things, like flying through a level’s open window.
If there’s a difference between Paper Flight – Speed Rush and Paper Flight – Super Speed Dash, it’s that the former is a little cheekier. It tucks more balloons into tight corners, in secret rooms, under things and round things. One balloon is plonked into a shower, but the shower screen is up, so you have to loop over it. We liked this puckishness, and the first game could have done with a touch more. But if it’s the only real improvement, then Paper Flight – Speed Rush is in trouble.
EpiXR Games should really throttle their output, as we’re seeing diminishing returns. Paper Flight – Speed Rush carries all of the faults of the original game (including an inability to play it on Xbox Series X|S), then layers on additional technical mess for good measure. It’s faulty, flawed and impossibly slow, and we’d rather play twenty Aery games in a row than one Paper Flight. Considering EpiXR Games’ prolific output, we should probably be careful about what we wish for.
You can buy Paper Flight – Speed Rush from the Xbox Store