Rocket League answered a simple and strange question: what if karts played soccer? This led to one of the best sports games of the modern age, one that is accessible enough to be a crazy arcade hit and offers enough depth for competitive esports action. Rocket League Sideswipe is a free mobile spin-off, a companion game intended to complement the original rather than replace it. Sacrifices were made to make Sideswipe a successful mobile experience, but Rocket League’s original charm shines through.
If you’ve never played the original Rocket League, I recommend starting with that before choosing Sideswipe. It’s free, it’s great, and on Nintendo Switch you can now play on the go. However, Sideswipe should fascinate existing Rocket League fans with the way it simplifies the familiar formula for Android and iOS devices (I played on an iPhone 12 mini). It’s almost like a demake, a fan project imagining how current games could be downscaled and translated to older systems.
Sideswipe’s overall goal remains the same. Ram your car into the giant ball to score points in the goals or on the hoop of the opposing team. That said, the presentation is very different. Instead of driving through an open 3D field, you move around on a compact 2D screen. Instead of 3v3, the two-minute matches consist of 2v2 battles and 1v1 duels.
The new perspective also changes the way the car is maneuvered. When you do a boost, you can fly freely through the air for a limited time. Use it to shoot towards the ceiling or make unreal interceptions. It almost turned your car into a rocket ship. Meanwhile, you can also jump and dodge in various directions, much more in line with the original game.
These cheats are necessary, because Sideswipe still has the carefully tuned physics system that gives Rocket League its legendary learning curve. You really need to hit the right angle shots with enough force to get the ball exactly where you want it. You will be wrong a lot, but when you nail a shot it is absolutely exciting. Within minutes, Sideswipe made my heart race like a true Rocket League match. This need for finesse, more than anything else, makes Sideswipe still feel like Rocket League rather than, say, Lethal League, Rayman Kung Foot, or some generic 2D arcade sports game.
Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the touch controls can’t always keep up with the action. It uses joysticks and virtual buttons to unleash movements, so your thumbs can twist when trying to execute high-level plays. It’s not a deal breaker, the game’s optimized format makes it extremely playable on mobile devices, but it’s the same issue we had with the mobile conversion of other League of Legends: Wild Rift esports. At least you can adjust settings like the size of the joystick and the lock buttons instead.
To the races
After the great success of Rocket League, its developer, Psyonix, was acquired by Epic Games. Rocket League Sideswipe feels like a game from the ridiculously rich company behind Fortnite, for better or for worse. It almost amazes me that Apple has allowed it on the App Store given the ongoing Fortnite legal battle.
For starters, Sideswipe looks and sounds great. I love the shiny chassis of my car. The three unique arenas are highlighted with bright neon accents and vibrant explosions. The chunky sound effects put you in the field, while the fast-paced soundtrack featuring licensed artists creates the illusion that there is a real sport happening somewhere.
Competitive players will also find many convenient options. For example, you can communicate with your teammates on the field using gestures or quick chat. Whenever a teammate accidentally scored on our own goal, he would surely apologize. You can also modify latency settings, input buffering, and forced feedback. Leaderboards show you who stands in your way if you want to become number one.
Rocket League Sideswipe is free to play, so it has all the expected (but no less annoying) hooks designed to drain your money. You can buy cosmetics, lust for mystery items, or buy a battle pass subscription. If you connect to your Epic Games account, you can share experience points through Sideswipe and the appropriate Rocket League to complete challenges at a faster rate. This immerses you even more in the ecosystem. However, the inventory items remained locked in their respective games. If I unlock a Flame Ornament, Streamlined Wizard Wheels, and a Bubble Boost in Sideswipe, I can only equip them in Sideswipe. Wins, losses, and other stats don’t sync either, as Rocket League and Sideswipe are different games with different ranking systems. Fortunately, you can play Sideswipe offline against bots.
Prepare for take off
Rocket League Sideswipe is a throwback to the days when publishers made mobile spin-offs of their AAA hits. While most of those games felt like lazy knockoffs, Rocket League Sideswipe gives you a lot of Rocket League flavor in 2D. mobile form. It’s a free mobile game, with the control issues and monetization complaints that come with the genre, but it’s great to know that Rocket League rules no matter the platform.