XperimentalZ Games and Pixel Boat Rush
XperimentalZ Games was founded in Montreal, Canada in 2010 by Patrick Jacob. Jacob had formerly worked at Gameloft, where he served as a lead designer on a popular racing game. Having grown up in the Atari 2600 era on games like Pac-Man and Missile Command, Jacob was a big fan of games that were both simple and fun. Looking around at the landscape of the mobile gaming market, Jacob felt that the market was about to make a major shift and go back to the roots of video gaming. He wanted to be a part of that, and decided to strike out on his own in 2010.
He started XperimentalZ Games soon after leaving Gameloft, but at the time it was just a one-person studio. After an initial idea proved to be a bit too complicated to realize, Jacob put together a smaller game in a matter of a few months called Gravitation Defense. While it wasn’t a hit by any means, the game proved to be an excellent learning experience for Jacob. Later in the year, Jacob was joined by a friend named Ghislain Bernier, adding his programming experience and bringing XperimentalZ Games up to two full-time employees.
Jacob wanted to go back to his original idea, and in anticipation of that plan the studio brought in eight part-timers. Since it was the first time the team was working together, however, they opted instead to put together another simple game just to get their feet wet. In 2011, Repulse-O was released. An unusual match-3 puzzle game, Repulse-O secured the developer’s first App Store Feature from Apple. Now sufficiently warmed up, the team was ready to take on something bigger. That project would turn out to be Don’t Run With a Plasma Sword, an auto-running platformer with a cheeky sci-fi vibe.
Following that game’s release in 2011, the team slimmed down to four regular members. They continued to support Don’t Run With a Plasma Sword for about a year following its release, but as it began to wind down, XperimentalZ had to consider the future. The team intended to keep building on its ethos of simple yet fun games that offered a satisfying amount of depth. Kicking around ideas for its next project, the developers settled on two ideas that they wanted to work with. The first was the idea of a boat jumping off of waves. The other was using a weapon to blast away enemies piece-by-piece.
It was decided that a racing game would fit both of these concepts, and games like 2011’s hit Death Rally showed that a mix of racing and combat could work well on mobile. There was some doubt as to whether or not such a game could work from a side-scrolling perspective, but the team spent a week putting together a prototype to test it out anyway. It was fun, and the game that would become Pixel Boat Rush was born. During the course of its development, the team took a break to work on a smaller game called Platforms Unlimited. The two games shared a number of concepts, and many of the ideas put into that game helped shape the final form of Pixel Boat Rush.
Pixel Boat Rush released on the App Store in October of 2014. The game earned excellent review scores and proved to be quite appealing to players. Much of the praise centered around the nuanced controls and wealth of content. The game received a number of updates, including one that added in an Endless Mode and an option to customize your own boat. It was also ported over to other platforms, including Mac OS, Android, and TV iOS. After some time, XperimentalZ Games had to move on to other projects. Pixel Boat Rush was brought into the GameClub library in 2019 and was fully updated for modern devices, bringing this wild race adventure back for a whole new generation.