Game Reviews

Checkpoint Champion

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Checkpoint Champion

Checkpoint Champion is a hateful thing. A cruel, endlessly unforgiving arcade time trial that laughs at your pitiful efforts to try and conquer it.

From the second you pick up the game it's being unkind. Its controls are woefully inadequate, and designed to ensure the line between glorious success and catastrophic failure is so thin it's barely even visible.

And then it wraps that hate and frustration into a compulsion loop that's so close to perfect you'll end up loving and hating it in equal measure.

This is Skidmarks for the Flappy Bird generation, bite-sized chunks of rage-inducing driving that either end in another restart or a resounding success of the highest order.

Last place

You control a car, tapping the right of the screen to turn right, the left of the screen to turn left, and hitting both sides at once to get a speed boost.

With these simple controls you're expected to navigate a series of 15 second levels, hitting checkpoints in a mad scramble against the clock.

These aren't gentle touchscreen controls though. Every tap is a millisecond away from run-ending oversteer, every miscalculation of a skid sends your finger jabbing for the 'restart' button.

Just getting the car to do what you want it to do takes Herculean levels of effort and concentration. And all you're trying to do is turn a few corners on a dirt track.

Second to last place

But it's not just dirt. There are tarmac sections, bogs of thick brown mud, and deep puddles to navigate too. And each one of them has a different effect on your handling.

Squelching through mud slows you down, but the second you're free of it you're darting off in whatever direction you're facing. Get your angle slightly wrong and you'll curse and restart.

Each level has a star rating, and to get the best you need to finish with a good chunk of time left on the clock. To begin with, most of those three star ratings seem legitimately impossible.

But then you slowly start to grips with things. You work out when to boost, when to turn, and how little pressure you need to apply to swing your backend round and flick one of the checkpoints.

Things don't start to flow, but you begin to recognise your mistakes. Telltale tyre marks show you where you went wrong, so you tap 'restart' and you try again.

And again. And again. And then an hour's gone and you've only managed to shave a tenth of a second off your time.

Last place again

Checkpoint Champion is a game about mastery. And for some people it's going to be too much. It's a frustrating thing, and just when you think you're making progress it throws another insanely difficult challenge into your path.

But if you can grit your teeth, and persevere even when that extra second seems a million miles away, then you'll find something here that's only too happy to court your masochism.

Checkpoint Champion crams a ridiculous level of difficulty into its blasts of play. But those three star ratings are attainable, and that position at the top of the leaderboard is yours for the taking.

If that's the sort of thing you want to waste hours of your life on, the game is only too happy to oblige. If you're looking for a more straightforward arcade racer, then this is one to avoid.

Checkpoint Champion

Behind the bright cartoon graphics lurks a black heart of pure gaming evil, and for some that makes Checkpoint Champion essential