Angry Birds made life hard for casual physics game developers: Suddenly, everything they do is compared to those birds and pigs. And this is all the more so for developers that decide to use a slingshot as a main game element. After all, if I tell you something like “this is a great game for your phone, and it’s all about using a slingshot,” one game will instantly come to mind. Right? Well, it turns out there are ways to use slingshot and slinging mechanics that result in a unique game experience that’s nothing like Angry Birds at all: I present Slingshot Racing and Sling It! One is a racing game with gorgeous graphics and the simplest controls imaginable, while the other does have you shoot things with a slingshot but isn’t like Angry Birds in any other way.
Sling It! is the closer game to Angry Birds out of these two, and it won’t win any prizes in the looks department, which is why I chose to start with it:
The premise is simple, but makes for an interesting game dynamic: It’s a bit like a shoot’em up game in that you have an enemy shooting at you (that’s the baddie at the top of the screen), but the slingshot dynamic makes it very different. Instead of shooting an endless barrage at the enemy, you have to make every shot count. Debris drop from the sky, which you must catch. Once you have a piece of debris, you can shoot it at the enemy. The controls are interesting, but they’re also confusing: When you’re trying to catch debris, you can move your slingshot anywhere on the screen. Once you have a piece of debris and it’s time to shoot, the slingshot fixes in place, and pulling back from it only stretches the band and aims. Yes, it does take some getting used to, but it’s definitely interesting.
Sling It! also has a comprehensive power-up system, with a built-in store where you can purchase power-ups using points you earn in the game (or buy for real money, of course):
- Interesting controls
- Innovative gameplay
- Low-fi graphics are an acquired taste
- The controls have a learning curve
There is no dearth of Android racing games, but Slingshot Racing still stands out. This racer has it all: Beautiful graphics, super-simple controls (no tilting, no on-screen buttons to keep missing), and a mechanic I haven’t seen on any other game. It’s all wrapped up in an interesting Steampunk aesthetic:
It’s a top-view racing game, but you don’t have to accelerate, or even steer in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, your car just goes — but to make it turn, you must hook it with slingshots strategically set up along the course:
Here you can see me making a right turn. As my car approached the slingshot, I tapped the screen (you can tap anywhere, not just on the tower), and a rope shot out of the tower, latched onto the car, and used the car’s force to swing it in an arc. That’s the way the game works: You swing from tower to tower, tapping the screen and letting go of it at just the right moments to take the turns tightly but not slam into walls. In some modes, you have to time your shots just so, in order to collect items waiting for you on the road:
Other game mode pit you against several opponents:
Bumping into other cars or having them block your way adds another layer of challenge, but I found the game is most enjoyable when I just ignore the competition and focus on taking the turns correctly. This is usually a good way to win, too.
Some events are item-based, which means they continue until you collect all power-ups awaiting for you on the course, no matter how long it takes. Others are lap-based, but have more laps than in most other games: eight-lap runs are common. This is great, because it means you get to know the course well. A good Slingshot Racing game can be described in one word: Flow. It almost becomes musical — you tap the screen and let go of it in a very specific rhythm, watching your car swoop through the turns and gaining momentum. It’s an incredibly addicting slingshot game.
- Utterly unique, engaging gameplay
- Beautiful graphics
- Simple one-finger controls
- Relatively large (32MB)
Bottom Line: Slingshots Doesn’t Mean Angry Birds
If you like slingshots but don’t like birds and pigs so much, these are the two best Android games that are sure to have you covered. Of the two, I was definitely more taken with Slingshot Racing, and can see myself playing it quite a bit.
Do you know of a good game that uses a slingshot and isn’t an Angry Birds knock-off? Let me know in the comments!