Hands-on with Checkpoint Champion: a bite-sized arcade racing challenge from former Halfbrick staffer

Burning rubber, kicking up dirt

Hands-on with Checkpoint Champion: a bite-sized arcade racing challenge from former Halfbrick staffer

With the upcoming Checkpoint Champion, new developer Protostar is showing confidence in bite-sized arcade racing form.

It's all about small, time-based challenges that mostly involve driving through shiny stars representing checkpoints. The focus here is in skill, handling, and showing tenacity.

If you don't get a challenge done in time on the first attempt you're going to return again and again until you nail it. You need to be quick to earn all three stars on each level.

Checkpoint Champion may be testing, but it's far from unfriendly or inaccessible. The car drives automatically, so you only have to tap the sides of the screen to steer it.

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It takes a little getting used to until you don't oversteer all the time (as I find with every top-down racing game I play), but it's unquestionably easy to pick up.

By pressing both sides of the screen, you use the car's flame-licking turbo for extra speed - you'll need it. Again, it's easy enough to use but takes time to master its nuances.

Aside from the controls and quickfire challenges, the ex-Half Brick pair brings the kind of cartoon charm you'd expect from their former employer.

It really shows in the smaller details of handling a car on various terrains in Checkpoint Champion.

Hand-drawn animations of muddy dust spin off my tyres in the dirt. Water splooshes about as I drive through it, slowing my speed.

When making tight turns you feel the forces enacting on the car through the wobbling chassis and screeching tyres on the tarmac. The skidmarks stay there too, acting as illustrated reminders of how I screwed up last time.

Checkpoint Champion

When doing this, I usually lost the level, but this is likely due to having chosen a faster car rather than one with more grip.

That seems to be a consistent choice in Checkpoint Champion - speed or grip?

It sits right at the game's core, as it varies up its challenges between straight line blasts across the track, to off-road skirmishes with a sharp bend at every beat.

It's an engaging, tightly-wrapped bundle that gives as much attention to the messiness of racing, as it does the skillful successes. It does this by acknowledging that behind every perfect turn is a hundred out-of-control skids and collisions.

In doing this, Protostar finds the fun, rather than the frustration, in our failures. Which is optimal given that you'll fail the game's '10 seconds or less' challenges over and over.

Checkpoint Champion will be released for free on iOS on November 20th. The Android version will arrive at around the same time hopefully.