Slingshot Racer is not your granddad’s racing game. There is no steering, no acceleration, no brakes and no gears. It’s a simple top-view one-touch racing game. The cars or rather sleds are each powered by slingshots rather than engines.
As your sled races around the track you’ll find grapple poles near each curve. You can tap anywhere on the screen to have a grapple hook fire, attach to the pole and slingshot you around turns. The key is to time the grapple hook correctly so that you can hug the turns as closely as possible to get ahead of the other racers and shave precious seconds off your race time. Winning races awards you up to three bolts, the game’s currency, awarded based on your performance, which can be used to unlock new tracks. Slingshot Racer is one of those games that is easy to grasp but hard to master.
There are two different modes to play. You can go with career mode, which starts with a 101 tutorial and progressively unlocks new tracks with different objectives and challenges. There is a total of 64 tracks in career mode divided into 16 tours giving you a lot of game time. There is also an unlockable bonus section with an additional four tours for a total of 80 races. While tracks are repetitive because there are only so many curves and loops you can have while still keeping gameplay one touch, the tracks do vary by having day and night versions, reversed versions and objectives. You have the traditional option to race against three AI players but you can also mix it up with some interesting challenges.
In some tracks the goal is to collect all the gears, little metal pieces that are scattered around the track. This is pretty challenging to do your first time since it demands perfection. Screwing up the timing of a turn can send you careening off course. Fortunately, each track is bite-sized so it takes less than a minute to replay. Eventually you can get your time down to as little as 25 to 30 seconds. My favorite game mode is the one that involves the potential to be eaten by a piece of machinery. You race against three other AI players as usual but you have one more participant, the Chomper, a giant snowplow that chases after you and devours the person that lingers in last place for too long. The race continues until only one person survives, like some kind of twisted Hunger Games involving industrial machinery and sleds. (In hindsight that could have been a fantastic addition to the movie.)
There’s also a tournament mode where you can compete against three other human players. There’s a different color-coded corner of the screen for each player: blue, yellow, green and red. You can race up to 15 laps on 10 tracks of varying difficulty. In theory that sounds great. But in practice four people hunched around a small phone like a coven of Android witches will get you strange glances and frighten small children. If you have a bigger phone like the Samsung Galaxy or a tablet then multiplayer will be a lot more manageable. Considering the mutitplayer options available, it would have been ideal if the Crescent Moon Games had included an option for playing online.
The game has a bit of an industrial feel to it. If there were coal-powered vehicles I would describe it as Steampunk. The soundtrack fits well with the theme and isn’t distracting. The graphics are crisp 3D with a calming feel; the blue ice of the tracks interacts nicely with the metal and snow. Gameplay is responsive. The one touch interface works surprisingly well, which is what I really liked about Slingshot Racer. Too many mobile racing games obnoxiously try to recreate a controller with buttons that rarely translate well to a phone. Slingshot Racer doesn’t bother with that and creates a simple effective interface that works well for a touch phone. The developers should be applauded for that. However, I do wish there were meaningful options to upgrade the sleds and gain power-ups. You really wish that you could fight back when you’re being chased by Chomper!
Slingshot Racer has engaging gameplay and a good variety of tracks. The multiplayer is unique for Android games and offers a lot of potential for replayability. I can think of several potential drinking games already. Overall, Slingshot Racer provides excellent value for the money and at a mere 99 cents, there’s plenty to please the hardcore gamer.