Over the weekend, I found myself in desperate need of a simple game. I had just gotten my COVID-19 booster shot, which left me with a touch of fatigue. Halo Infinite and Bayonetta (the games I was playing at the time) both seemed a little too fast-paced for my brain, but there wasn’t much else on my backlog. I racked my brain for December game releases I missed and suddenly remembered Rocket League Sideswipe.
The mobile version of the hit sports game Rocket League hit iOS and Android on November 30 and didn’t receive too much attention. Perhaps it was that players were preoccupied with Halo or that the press was too busy putting together year-end lists to dive in. That’s not to mention the general stigma around mobile games that limits conversation about titles like this even when they gain massive player bases.
Whatever the reason, I laid on the couch and downloaded the free app, expecting to play a few rounds and drop it forever. Two hours later, I was completely hooked on what’s become my new go-to mobile game.
Rocket League Sideswipe is a clever mobile adaptation of its PC and console counterpart. It boils the hectic game down to its essence, reducing the scale while retaining the chaos. The main difference is that games happen in 2D instead of 3D. Players are dropped into a small, open arena with goals on each side. They can drive and rocket boost around the screen to get the most goals within a tight two minutes.
Pressing down on the left side of the screen creates a thumbstick that moves the player’s rocket car. On the right, there are two buttons that let players jump and boost. Those are the only controls, but it’s all the game actually needs. It’s a simple scheme that’s well-suited for the intuitive nature of touch controls.
With a smaller visual scale comes fewer players There are three game modes currently: 1v1 duels, 2v2 soccer matches, and a 2v2 basketball variant. The solo mode is a tense battle of skill and car control, but the duo modes are where the game shines. By focusing on two-player squads, the team dynamics are always easy to grasp. I know when to play defense or when to go on offense based on what my teammate is doing.
The small visual scale helps as well. In Rocket League, your car zooms around a large arena with a third-person camera following close behind. It’s difficult to know if a teammate is playing goalie, which often leads to frustrating scores where the other team bops the ball into a wide-open net. In Sideswipe, you get a lightly moving camera shot showing most of the arena at all times. You always know where the ball, your teammate, and your opponents are at all times. It’s much easier to react to every hit and change strategy on the fly.
Despite being “stripped down” on paper, Sideswipe retains everything that I love about Rocket League in an elegant package. Matches are short shootouts that feel both chaotic and skillful. Even with a small 2D arena, I still find myself making incredible shots that get my adrenaline up. That’s largely thanks to the fact that cars can essentially fly with the boost button, adding aerial control to my arsenal.
Accidents still happen — and that’s the real heart of Rocket League. There’s always been a slapstick joy to the game as rocket cars clumsily try to kick around a giant ball. It leads to laugh-out-loud moments where a teammate loses all control and accidentally launches the ball into their own net in some physically improbable way. That comedic aspect is still present here, making it a lighthearted experience that never leaves me heated.
If the game receives regular support with new modes and cosmetic items, I could see it becoming a staple of my mobile rotation. The simple controls and short matches make it a perfect lazy day game that I can play while curled up on the couch with my cat.
Rocket League Sideswipe is available now on iOS and Android devices for free.
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