You’ll shoot your eye out

Whereas slingshots and air rifles were once regarded as symbols of childhood boisterousness and hijinks, they’ve since lost their innocence. It’s not hard to understand why: It didn’t take parents long to realize childhood can come to a quick, bloody end when a BB makes contact with a young eye at 200 feet per second.

At least the violent side of child’s play lives on through the Happy Tree Friends cartoon series. These Flash-based shorts bring cuddly woodland critters together in some of the most brutal playdates to hit the airwaves. Happy Tree Friends: Deadeye Derby is a racing/combat title that attempts to capture the spirit of the bloody cult hit, but its iffy controls and rampant peddling for in-app purchases make playing it as much fun as getting disemboweled.

Happy Tree Friends: Deadeye Derby

It’s summertime in the world of the Happy Tree Friends. While there’s never a bad time for pain amongst these friends of the forest, the summer brings a chance to indulge in two specific activities: Box kart racing and killing small animals with slingshots.

The majority of Deadeye Derby is played against live opponents. When a round begins, you and your rival race side-by-side. Each of you is armed with a slingshot, and your goal is to knock your opponent off their kart with well-aimed and well-timed shots. Beware, though: Your opponent’s goal is to do the same to you, and if they’re faster on the draw (and if they have better equipment), they might succeed.

You drive automatically in Deadeye Derby, but aiming and shooting (done by “pulling back” on your slingshot via the touch screen) is up to you. Ideally, you want to smack your opponent in the eye(s), as doing so yields the most damage.

Happy Tree Friends: Deadeye Derby

It’s not easy, thanks to the game’s motion-based aiming. There’s no calibration option, so getting your opponent in your sights long enough to fire on them is often a matter of twisting and turning in all directions. It’s frustrating enough against live opponents, but it’s far worse when you’re thrown against the computer-controlled bosses. These furry jerks have tons of hit points, not to mention heavily-reinforced cars and weapons capable of frying you in seconds flat.

Unsurprisingly, you need to overcome bosses in order to move on to new courses. The idea is to grow stronger by earning enough coins to upgrade your kart and slingshot, but it’s a tedious road. Upgrades are expensive, and coins are sparse – until you cave and buy some via an in-app purchase.

Happy Tree Friends: Deadeye Derby

Worse, when you can finally afford an upgrade, you have to wait a certain amount of time until it’s installed, unless you speed up the process with the game’s hard currency (diamonds). Oh, and when you hit your stride, don’t get too comfortable. Each race costs one of your five default lives, and when they’re all gone, you need to wait around for a recharge. Or you can pay for one. Or you can bug your Facebook friends, which will surely be appreciated.

There’s not much to Deadeye Derby, even for Happy Tree Friends fans. Even the epic gore is toned down. It’s repetitive, slow, and you’re better off swinging from a tree by your dislodged eyeball.