App of the Day: Slingshot Racing

Snap to it.

There's a particularly perverse pastime that makes up one of the cornerstones of Slingshot Racing. Drivers are pitted against the Chomper, a merciless racetrack-bound compacter on wheels that eats any vehicle unlucky enough to cross its path. The rules in Chomper races are simple: be the last car standing and you won't be pulverized to a heap of twisted metal. Screw up on a turn or fail to hit a speed boost and you probably won't be so lucky.

Maybe we're supposed to see Slingshot Racing as a matchbox play land, as if we're looking down on a Lilliputian diorama. Here we must physically activate the strange contraptions that make speeding cars whip around curves, tethered to bungee-like cords. But it's much more fun to think of such physics-altering machines as great clanking contraptions in their own world, populated by real drivers being pit against this Mad Max-ish agricultural nightmare.

1

It's like Pac-Man, only there aren't any ghosts and you're the one getting eaten.

You can think of Slingshot as a top-down rally racer akin to Dirt, then, only instead of painstakingly approaching every dip and twist on the track with the utmost precision, you're concerned with is how long to let the elastic band attached to your car stretch.

Then there's the problem of knowing when to let the elastic band go for maximum power and the best turning radius, and most importantly, how your timing is going to affect its course. With no options for acceleration, braking or traditional turning, this pursuit is a necessity, and an intractably addicting challenge.

At first it's not entirely clear the developers can stretch Slingshot's single core mechanic into a longer-term gameplay device. Your initial tutorial is given by an old man wearing goggles that wouldn't look out of place in a steampunk universe. Since your slingshot hotrods don't seem to be powered by anything it almost feels as if game is mocking you, making you fling your toys around simple circular tracks using only stretch-and-snap power (particularly when track dressing clearly indicates steam power has indeed been harnessed elsewhere).

2

Insert rubber-banding joke here.

Could this be it? Well, no, not really. The further you get in the campaign, the more devious the races become. Where you might be able to get away with a wide arcing turn while in first place during an earlier heat, later you've got to send your cars flying with a great deal of accuracy. It comes to the point where you'll commonly need to execute a perfect turn into a drift (letting go of the nearest tether post), then into another turn (holding down at the next post). This is especially difficult when facing down a Chomper, or in a timed race collecting cog pieces scattered across the road.

It's not quite sadism, but the casually taxing difficulty makes sense, I guess. When you live in a mostly ice-covered wasteland where racing luge-cars with giant rubber band technology is considered sport, maybe you're already gone a little mad. Maybe, instead of being a tiny civilisation, the citizens of Slingshotville are more aligned with Gulliver's Houyhnhnms, cruelly ordering drivers off to their deaths (or at the very least greatly inconveniencing them) because it's the most practical form of entertainment. At least your car isn't made of human skin.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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