For the last month or so, I’ve been half-man, half-Rocket League Sideswipe. It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve spent far more than an acceptable level of time playing a mobile game on my phone while also sitting in my PJs in front of the TV, coffee maker, friends, family, and basically anything else you can name in your home.
I should probably give a high-level recap for the gamers out there who don’t know what Rocket League Sideswipe is: It’s a PvP soccer (futball) game on mobile, but instead of running around as a person, you drive a car… a car that has rocket boosters. There are some alternative modes beyond soccer too, which can be a fun aside.
Some real talk for a moment: It’s honestly taking everything I have to put the game down just to write up this week’s column. Just one more quick game before we get into the meat of this.
It isn’t trying to be the original Rocket League
Likely one of the highest praises I have for Rocket League Sideswipe is that it isn’t trying to be the full Rocket League experience. Rather, it rightly addresses everything you want out of Rocket League and a mobile game.
Namely, it reduces the length of matches from five minutes to two minutes, and we lose a dimension. So rather than centering the camera behind your car as if you were in a 3rd person perspective, the game instead allows you to view the whole arena and simply move your car left, right, up, and down. If anything, the camera seems to remain centered on the ball. The controls are similar to other virtual joypad controls, but I don’t seem to mind them in this case. You do have the option of connecting a real controller and playing with that, but that’s tantamount to cheating! If you aren’t realizing that you’re aiming the wrong direction at a critical point in taking your shot, then you aren’t playing right. Although I’ll admit to using a controller a few times… for testing, of course!
The controls have been simplified for a mobile game too – not that they were too complicated before. Since we’ve lost some depth in the move to mobile, there’s no need for drifting and turning hard. Instead, we have a joypad to move in any direction, a rocket boost, and a jump button. Since the controls have been adjusted and we have simple side-to-side gameplay, Psyonix has also removed the boost markers from this game. Instead, your boost gauge will gradually fill anytime you have all wheels on a flat surface. While it would appear that stripping the gameplay down so much would make this version feel hollow and like a shell of the original, it somehow manages to maintain that momentum and feel of playing a true Rocket League match.
Accessibility is the name of the game
One of the reasons I find the original Rocket League such a fun experience is the ease and accessibility of playing a match. You don’t have to be particularly good to still have fun and contribute to the game – especially when you’ve played enough to settle into your appropriate bracket.
You’ll still find that straightforward gameplay here. Picking up the game for the first time walks you through a simple tutorial that shows you how to make use of the controls and maneuver in the arena. After just a couple of minutes, you’ll be ready to go.
I like to say that the skill floor isn’t very low and the ceiling isn’t too high, though perhaps I just don’t know how good players can really become in Rocket League Sideswipe.
Bite-sized gameplay keeps me hooked for hours
I can’t express enough how pleased I am with two-minute matches. It’s an absolute joy. Not just for me; I’m sure my family appreciates it too. I’m such a rage gamer, it turns out. I know I hate to lose. But boy do I get upset when I’m getting smoked in a match. At least with these extremely quick bouts, I can’t stay upset for too long before a new match begins and I can calm my attitude.
Seriously, though, the short matches are great. Few things agitate me more in PvP than playing a match, realizing within a few minutes that the outcome is all but decided, and having to go through the motions for the next 10 or 20 minutes wallowing in my despair. Here, each game flies by.
And since I know that they fly by so quickly, I don’t hesitate to whip my phone out at a moments notice. Commercials? Rocket League. Coffee brewing? Rocket League. Sitting at the dinner table being berated for blindly ignoring the world around me? Rocket League!
Customization and game modes
It seems evident that the assets used in the original game were also ported over to this version. However, even if you were to sign into the game with your Epic account, you won’t get to use a car you’ve already designed and set up. There are some XP linking bonuses, which award extra XP in both games seemingly based on how much you level in each of them. So there are some advantages, but it isn’t as great as having all your loot.
Instead, it appears that Psyonix is slowly giving out the rewards. Some of them come from the battle pass equivalent system it has set up, and others come from the daily login reward. While there is an item shop, as in Rocket League proper, it’s easily ignored. In fact, as I type this, it doesn’t appear that the studio is directly monetizing the game yet. Instead, you can earn some coins through gameplay that you can use at the item shop. No doubt in time you’ll be able to purchase the goods directly, but it doesn’t appear to be here yet.
The game just began Season 2, and with it we’ve already seen a rotation of game modes. They’ve removed the basketball equivalent and replaced it with volleyball. The developers somehow manage to capture the essence of the sports the modes are based on while placing that Rocket League spin on them. Other than that, though, you’ve got only simple 1v1 and 2v2 modes. It’s not the plethora of modes I usually lean towards, but at this early juncture in the game’s life, I’m OK with it. Within just a couple of months, we’ve already gotten access to a new game mode, so at least we know Psyonix didn’t throw this out into the world and give up on it immediately. The devs appear to have a plan, and I’m here for it.
One last thing to mention, and it might be big for many of you: The game doesn’t have a proper chat system. Sure, that can be pretty annoying, but in quick PvP games like this, I see it as a boon since it severely limits the amount of toxicity you experience. Don’t misunderstand me; players still do their best to be total tools, but at least they can’t explicitly say anything nasty.
Instead, we have quick chat stickers. The classics are all there: “Nice Shot” “What a Save” and some grumpy and happy face emoji stickers. As with other cosmetics in the game, you can earn and unlock new ones. One thing I did notice was missing, though, was a report-player feature. The one built into the original game is quite useful, and perhaps since we can’t chat, Psyonix thought it didn’t need it here. However, I’ve come across a couple player names I don’t think anyone should see, but I had no means of reporting. I’d like to see that corrected.
With all that said, if you have two minutes to spare, you should absolutely check it out. It’s free-to-play and available on iOS and Android. Now, if I’ve met my quota for today – back to more sideswiping!