What would the Indy 500 look like if it were hosted on the planet Hoth? Probably a lot like Slingshot Racing (Out Now, $0.99 Release Sale), which has wildly curving tracks, lots of car crashes — and plenty of tow cables. The race cars here have giant ice skates for wheels and rely far more on old fashioned Newtonian physics than high-octane engines. Rather than use steering wheels, they round the bends of a race track by lassoing guide posts, and deciding the timing of this is the player’s task. Sounds cool? It totally is!
The really awesome thing about Slingshot is that you don’t have to be a fan of racing sims to enjoy it; if you dig the premise you’re in for a fun time, period. I would argue that it’s a one-touch rhythm game at heart. The key to success is getting a good feel for the proper timing of catching and releasing guide posts, accomplished simply by holding anywhere and letting go of the screen respectively. Your racer knows to latch onto the nearest post, which removes a lot of hassle from your split-second decisions. Thanks to the wonders of physics, it takes only a few seconds to turn a lagging performance into a victory. Your race car’s velocity is determined by your distance from the post you’re currently latched onto, and tracks are set up so that a bad catch on one post gives you an opportunity to speed up if you aggressively reach for the next.
The flipside, of course, is that your opponents can just as easily pass you up if you don’t keep hitting just the right notes. Good enemy AI makes for satisfyingly tight races, and if you’d rather play against humans you can do that in four-way multiplayer. It’s the competitive aspect that makes Slingshot addictive, so the lonely time attack and gear-collection races in its meaty single player campaign are low points that can feel like filler levels. The very best races set a growling tractor behind the competitors; it gradually chews up the last in line, giving you more incentive to stay ahead of your foes than level ratings ever could!
Slingshot’s single player campaign feels solidly designed with its bevy of perfectly calibrated race tracks and a good live tutorial, but once all four race types are introduced there isn’t a whole lot more to see here. Tracks get re-used quite a bit over the lengthy campaign, variety relying on details like speed booster placement and which direction the racers are going. As a result, Slingshot’s appeal cools after your first hour or two with it — contrast this with the ever-evolving breadth of Diversion, the reigning champ of one-touch game design in my mind. That said, Slingshot’s premise is so fresh you’re liable to come back to it every now and then to feel that magic rush of angular momentum.
Slingshot sure earns a ton of style points! Its winding race tracks look almost photorealistic on a Retina display; the sound of slicing skates completes the player’s impression of racing through otherworldly ice arenas. Dynamic slowdowns around critical bends not only lend the game a cinematic feel but are downright helpful in letting the player get a good feel for the game’s tracks.
iFanzine Verdict: Slingshot Racing is so slick you’ll wish you could play this quirky sport in real life. While the one-touch interface makes it just as accessible as it is unique, content variety wears thin pretty quickly. Grab it while it’s on sale and you’ll have zero regrets.