Version Reviewed: 1.0.3
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Minecart levels in video games tend to be pretty hit-or-miss. Imagine then how risky Swipecart, a game made of nothing but mine cart levels, must sound. Fortunately, while its controls are a little rickety, the game never totally falls off the rails.
In Swipecart, players compete in the new sport of extreme mine cart racing. But while its courses are indeed fast and thrilling, they ultimately play out closer to physics puzzle games and are more technical, rather than arcade-style driving games. Players must complete each tiny track as quickly as possible, while collecting as many gems as possible, but simply going full-steam ahead is rarely the answer. Knowing when to pump the brakes is crucial, as is properly dealing with the various obstacles like gaps and seesaws. Plus, players must be ready to bring their cart to a complete stop at the end of each track or they’ll plummet down the mine shaft.
When this system works, Swipecart gets pretty clever and engaging. Having to do wheelies to leap over small bumps is particularly neat in a classic Excitebike kind of way. However, too often the game is too finicky, dampening its cerebral fun. It frequently punishes players for not doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time or speed.
Unfortunately much of this is due to the controls, which emulate actual mine carts in the most tedious way imaginable. At the start of each race, players must swipe back and forth on the screen in a pumping motion to build up speed. Once the cart passes the flag it ceases accelerating and must continue through momentum alone. This initial pumping gesture has a weird, awkward rhythm, and quickly gets uncomfortable as players do it round after round. Even worse, having the right starting speed is probably the biggest key to success, but trying to land on a specific MPH using this method is way more difficult than it should be.
These problems aren't insurmountable though. Persistent players can definitely make it through Swipecart's three mountains with about 60 levels between them. They can also build their own courses with the robust level editor. Meanwhile, the only in-app purchase elements to be found are cosmetic changes for the cart that have zero impact on gameplay. The retro earth-tone graphics are pretty charming though, so players might want to pimp their carts anyway.
It's too bad Swipecart's controls are so strange and imprecise, but they don't totally wreck the package. Minecarts in video games might have a future after all.