I have a soft-spot for a handful of things in gaming. One is car games with slippy handling, and another is punishingly hard games that are constantly offering up challenges that are just beyond my abilities.
Checkpoint Champion is both of these and more. This top-down racer feels like a rally game crossed with a slalom. You have to guide your car from one checkpoint to the next within a ridiculously tight time limit. Quick and constant restarts are the order of the day, and I love it.
Rally (makes me) Cross
There is a lot to get used to as you start Checkpoint. From the very first challenge you have to start mastering the game's unforgiving difficulty curve and coming to terms with the fact that achieving a three-star rating will require considerable focus. But, as you slide around the game's two different environments, things slowly fall into place.
Each of Checkpoint’s three cars handle significantly differently, so selecting the right one for the job can be vital. This also means learning how they transition from tarmac, to grass, and into mud, if you hope to top the leader-boards.
The whole game is available for free through ad support, but purchasing it allows you to turn off ads and unlock all the cars from the start rather than having to earn them.
Wonderfully simple frustration
With your car automatically taking care of the acceleration, the controls are wonderfully simple; hold the left of the screen to turn left, hold right to turn right, and hold both to boost. The game responds to every input instantly, which is fortunate because Checkpoint Champion demands nothing less as you chase those elusive top times.
The exactness of this means that every mistake is yours. Turn a fraction of a second early and you will miss your next target, while a split second late could see you under-steering into a tree. It is infuriatingly difficult but, while moments of failure will leave you cursing, finally managing to get the perfect line on three markers is unreasonably satisfying.
Wacky time trials
The three stubby cartoon cars are beautiful representations of real world (though not licensed) machines. They sit fantastically against the bold colors of the world, with their skid marks and dust trails sitting proudly on the track as you constantly tap restart to once again try to get that perfect run.
I can't deny how infuriating Checkpoint Champion can be, but it does it with joyous deliberateness. If this kind of retry, perfectionist mechanic is your thing then you should already be downloading it, if it isn’t you should still give it a look.
My only complaint? I want more, as the game is currently quiet short, leaving only the high-score table to keep me coming back.