The slingshot mechanic in mobile gaming is something that's largely attributed to Angry Birds. Sure, there are a few games like Crush the Castle that pre-date the avian flinging adventure but Angry Birds is the one that gained enough popularity to become the reference point. If you play a game where you flick something at a questionably built tower you'll describe it as being 'like Angry Birds' because everyone immediately knows what you mean.
Irrespective of the true origin of this gameplay mechanic it's certainly something that's incredibly well-suited to mobile. There's something about dragging back on a touch screen and letting go that feels much more tactile than doing the same motion with an analogue stick or a mouse. Perhaps it's simply the way the creature or object you're about to fling closely follows your finger that provides a greater sense of involvement with the action.
It's such an intuitive gameplay mechanic that it's stood the test of the time. Angry Birds is now 10 years old and the idea will undoubtedly date back further when you consider Crush the Castle and whatever influenced those folks to come up with the idea. It's moved on from only being in physics-based games where you fling an object into its foundations to knock it down, though there are still plenty of those. It has also found its way into platformers and even sports games so we're going to have a look at few of those now to celebrate the simple brilliance that is the slingshot mechanic.
One caveat to note, I've picked games that you can still play today, just in case anyone gets a hankering for some slingshot action. Please do reminisce about games we may have lost to time that made interesting use of slingshot gameplay in the comments though.
Frogmind Studios, a fellow Finnish based developer, released Rumble Stars earlier this year where I've found myself totally enamoured with it and in part that's due to the inclusion of a slingshot mechanic. If you're unfamiliar with Rumble Stars it's effectively a Clash Royale style game mixed with football, or soccer if you're American.
As you've probably guessed then, you won't be toppling towers in this game. Instead, you'll deploy your players by slinging them onto the pitch. This goes beyond being a gimmicky method to position them onto the field, though the placement is very important. You'll also use timing to block shots that you know your goalkeeper will struggle with, bump opposing Rumblers out of dangerous positions and if you're very skilful with the Melon, perform trick shots to score goals.
If Rumble Stars was more akin to a management game where you simply choose cards when the energy bar hit the right number and the AI took care of the rest it would be a lesser game. The slingshot feature adds much more tension to proceedings allowing for exciting goal-line clearances and a lot more randomness as the ball ricochets around the pitch.
Drag'n'Boom's inclusion on this here list is a little debatable since you don't actually pull back and let go of the dragon you control. Instead, you flick forward in the direction you want to go, but the sentiment is pretty much the same.
Using the left-hand side of the screen you can choose which direction you want to fling your little dragon character. This can be done with quite flicks or you can hold down on the screen to get a sort of bullet-time effect depending on how frantic you want it to feel.
With the right side of the screen, you can choose which direction to shoot fireballs. This works in the same way as movement, meaning that Drag'n'Boom is technically a double slingshot game. It's a very simple game, you pretty much just fly around reigning down fiery death whilst collecting coins by dashing through them but flicking to control movement and attack direction makes it far more addictive than it would be if you controlled both in a more conventional way.
Barbaric: The Golden Hero uses the slingshot mechanic in a way that's very reminiscent of pinball. You play as a barbarian whose sole aim is to kill monsters and loot all of their stuff. You do this by pulling back from the character, aiming at the various enemies and letting go to watch our barbarian hero become a ball, rolling at his foes with devastating speed.
When lined up correctly you can hit multiple enemies at once and the game does run in slow motion while you're choosing who to attack, so there's ample opportunity to make sure you have the perfect shot. You'll also have to consider enemy projectiles before you go rolling in as you might ricochet off the walls into them.
This makes Barbaric: The Golden Hero great for playing on the go as you only need one hand to control the action. It reminds me a little bit of a game called Slingshot Braves that is no longer available, which also made similar use of slingshot gameplay, though that game also had a lot more depth to it.
Spitkiss is both beautiful and disturbing at the same time. It has a lovely, striking art style but once you learn it's a game about gobbing out a wad of saliva and then guiding it round a level to one of your many partners' mouths, it suddenly becomes more grotesque than pretty. It does, however, have a nice spin on the slingshot concept.
You'll start off each level by spitting some of your body fluids out your mouth by pulling back on the screen and then letting go. Once you've let your saliva fly it's then a case of repeatedly slinging it round the level, avoiding obstacles and enemies as you go until you reach your – hopefully – willing partner.
There are other games that have used this concept before but none of them sticks in my mind quite as much as Spitkiss does, for better and mostly worse. So if you know of more mobile games that are essentially slingshot platformers that don't revolve around swapping body fluids, do let me know in the comments.
Skullduggery! is one such platformer that does stay in my head, however. In this one, you play as a disembodied skull who's still got their brain resting in their cranium. That latter part is very important because you move through levels by stretching your brain away from where it belongs and letting it snap back into place to propel you through the air.
It's that brand of weird that I'm personally very much on board with. You can slingshot the skull into open hands that are scattered about through the levels and they will hold you in place as you pick your next move. Meanwhile, you'll also take advantage of your smaller size by tossing your dome through various pipe networks.
Much like Drag'n'Boom, you can slow down time in mid-air by holding down on the screen. This can make lining up headshots on enemies much easier or ensuring you'll fly straight down the nearest pipe. It's a great spin on the platform genre and once again showcases that slingshot gameplay is a natural fit on mobile.