Little Red Sled

a Touch item by J Nash (Tuesday June 15th, 2010)

Publisher: Imangi
Authors: K Shepherd (programming), J Kokotov and S Nielsen (art), N Luckyanova (music)
Price: £1.19
Play the demo / buy the game

Set in some kind of parallel Peanuts-y universe and showcasing the second best use of bunnies in a game after Psychonauts, this unclutteredly simple and incredibly sweet one-player tobogganing racer has swiftly become one of my most played titles.

Wisely opting for tilt steering to keep the pacy courses free of fingers (you tap to brake, and the only other control is a quick post-ramp waggle if you want to chance a mid-air stunt), LR Sled hurtles your little red sledge through an escalating series of combo challenges until you’re trying to nab presents and beat the clock and swerve up to the finish with a minimum score from multiple stunts (and, at least once, knock down the otherwise pesky bunnies). It’s all whizzy and speedy and fun and the generous draw distance eliminates the typical error in these things where a vital item pops up before you can react. There’s a pleasing mix of wide landscapes, bumpy snow, woods and towering funnels.

Zipping through the forest

I turn slightly left through a forest.

The pacing’s slightly off; there are (I think) 15 levels and the first five are practically the tutorial, then suddenly the game’s kicking you up a stick all around the compass, but there are always two open courses and LR Sled has a clever approach to encouragement where any success or improvement in any element of a race nets you an inspiring “Hurray!” at the stats. (If you somehow manage to perform worse at everything, there’s a commiserating, “Oh no!”. The voice bits all round are appropriately lovely, presumably performed by a tiny human child poked with a stick, which is how they did it in Peanuts, which is a lie.)

Skittling pesky bunnies

I turn slightly left to skittle pesky bunnies (after picking up the invincibility present, responsible safety fans).

A funny thing for such a charming game is that the higher races are positively savage. I was startled, for example, to finally jig my way through level 13’s twisty course of presents, and match the necessary stunt score, only to find I’d somehow managed to brake seven seconds past the clock. (No runs last longer than about a minute, so you don’t have to Dr Doak at your first mistake if you want to practise the rest of the track or are just enjoying bombing around.) If you play this on the bus, the fabulous piano soundtrack should counterpoint the way your words curl the air into frosty black knots.

Mid-air stunt-y spinny effect

I preparatorily turn slightly left as I spin through the air in a brilliant stunt by me.

The full version would probably be happier at 59p, but for £1.19 this has kept me occupied quite a bit for the last couple of days when I should have been playing something else. (Once you’ve beaten the last course I’d imagine you’ll be done with it: you can shave a few extra points here and there for a personal best, but there are no online leaderboards or something. Then again, we’re spared someone realising if there’s no clock on the level you can brake to a standstill on an early one and try inching along to the bonus presents for people who prefer to drive on the other side of the road.)

A sudden bunny

I veer tremendously left past a rabbit hole.

A splendid and rapid little racer then and one with a fine style. You may prefer your driving games to blow things up or contain specially licensed windscreens, but I find anything irresistible where the sound of your toboggan careening over packed snow is someone whispering, “Pfffsshhhhhhwww.”

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