I never thought I’d spend more time playing games on my phone than on my PlayStation 5, but here we are. Mobile games used to be the worst example of predatory, pay-to-win, artless crap – and there’s still plenty of that out there – but if you don’t think there are good mobile games today then you haven’t been paying attention. Between Pokemon Unite, The Room series, all of Riot’s games, everything on Game Pass, and countless ports of classic and modern ports, I’m never at a loss for something new to play on my phone, and I’m constantly juggling a list of mobile battle passes. But against my better judgment, I downloaded the new Rocket League game, and dammit if I’m not already hooked on yet another grind.
Rocket League Sideswipe isn’t a port of the original Rocket League, which is mechanically challenging even without the imprecision of on-screen mobile controls. Instead, Sideswipe reimagines Rocket League on a 2D plane with one goal on the left and another on the right. The controls are mercifully simple: steer your car by moving a virtual stick on the left, and press the two buttons on the right to jump and boost. Those are all the tools you have, and your only goal is to hit the ball into the net.
If you’ve played the original Rocket League, the fundamentals are exactly the same. The developers have managed to replicate the snappy controls and floaty physics of the perfectly. Rocket League has always been the best example of a game with the lowest skill floor and highest skill ceiling, and Sideswipe has the exact same quality. Matches are only two minutes long and goals are scored every few seconds. It’s not uncommon to end a match with scores in the double digits once you learn how to manage your boost meter and hit the ball from the right angle. I was never very good at Rocket League, but I’m already double-jump-back-flipping the ball into the goal in Sideswipe, and it's a blast.
Mobile games don’t have the best reputation for their monetization practices, but there’s nothing in Sideswipe that sets off my alarm bells. In fact, there currently isn’t any way to spend money in Sideswipe even if you wanted to. The Rocket Pass rewards new cars, paint jobs, wheels, toppers, and other cosmetics every time you level up, and it's completely free. The in-game shop is full of cosmetic items that can be purchased with a currency called SP, but there’s no way to buy SP with real money. You can earn SP on the Rocket Pass, by salvaging unwanted cosmetics, and from presents earned by completing challenges – and that’s it. Sideswipe is a free-to-play game so I have to assume it will have some form of monetization eventually, but as of right now, everything that exists in the game has to be earned by playing the game. How delightfully old-school is that?
I’m extremely addicted to Sideswipe. The three game modes – 1v1, 2v2, and 2v2 Hoops – add just enough variety to keep things fresh, and the long list of weekly, seasonal, and event challenges have kept me coming back for the grind. I don’t know how Epic can keep this going with no ads and no way to spend money, but I’m not complaining. If the original is any indication, it won’t be long before we get the Batmobile and the DeLorean in Sideswipe too, at which point it will become my main and only game. Apologies in advance to my Destiny 2 clan.
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