Game Review: Slipstream

If there is one original arcade cabinet that I would love to own, it would be Atari’s Gauntlet. If I could own two original arcade cabinets, the second one would be Sega’s OutRun. One of the deluxe, sit-down ones with all the hydraulics. I adore OutRun, it was one of the classics that defined my childhood and a game I always made a beeline for whenever I was in an arcade. Capturing what made OutRun was damn great is a tricky thing to do, even now 35 years later. From developer Ansdor Games and published by BlitWorks comes Slipstream, an arcade racer that certainly has a very OutRun feel. But is it any good?

Slipstream is a racing game inspired by the visuals, music, games and cars from the late 80s and early 90s. It’s built on a custom game engine, with an authentic retro feel and unique graphics. The soundtrack, drawing from synthpop and jazz fusion influences, sets the tone for a race across a variety of exotic locations from all around the world, including cities, deserts, forests, mountains and beaches. Drifting and slipstreaming mechanics add depth to the driving gameplay, and the result is a challenging and exciting experience.

SLIPSTREAM MAIN

Now, Slipstream has been out on PC since 2018 but it has very recently seen a console release with a few refinements. I’ve been playing the Xbox version for this review. First up, what do you get in terms of modes here? Well, in all honestly, you really do get quite a lot. I’ll go through the modes one by one.

Grand Tour is your classic arcade mode. Think how the original OutRun worked with you driving through various stages and coming to a fork in the road where you chose which course to follow. That is pretty much what you get here with the Grand Tour mode. Cannonball has you playing through five (or more) stages back to back. No selectable routes here, just you going from the start to the end of a long and continual run… a Cannonball Run if you will, as you try to be first across the line. Grand Prix sees you going up against various opponents through numerous races fighting for points. Whoever has the most points at the end wins. There’s also an upgrade system with this mode where you can spend your winnings on improving your chosen car. Single Race mode is pretty self-explanatory… it’s a single race, with you picking one of the twenty-five stages in the game. Time Trial is also pretty self-explanatory… it’s a time trial race. You vs the clock trying to put in the fastest time. Finally, there is Battle Royale mode. I’m sure you know how a battle royale works, as it is a very popular genre. You vs numerous opponents and whoever is at the back of the pack at the end of a stage is eliminated until only one racer remains.

SLIPSTREAM SCREEN 4

Anyway, six game modes are what you get here with Slipstream. For an arcade racer, that really is quite a lot to choose from Even then, there are variables and customisation that can be applied to those modes. There’s even a four-player split-screen mode. You can hand-pick which races you want to take part in, change the traffic density. Plus, if you’re a bit older these days and your reactions are not quite what they were back in the 80s, you can slow the game down via the use of a % meter. It’s a great idea as it allows you to set the pace of the game yourself and find your perfect comfort zone. In fact, in terms of accessibility, Slipstream spoils you for choice. You can adjust pretty much anything in the game. Screen shake, screen tilt when cornering, VHS effects and there are even various display settings like CRT, NTCS and pixelated graphics that can be changed to add a bit of 80s authenticity. Then there are the five different cars, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. You’re sure to find the perfect balance for your personal play style.

SLIPSTREAM SCREEN 1

As for how Slipstream looks, you can get a decent idea from the trailer and screenshots right here. Still, seeing a game on a blog isn’t quite the same as playing it on a big screen. The graphic style here is very late-80s/early-90s arcade. It certainly has the sprite scaling that made OutRun so damn gorgeous and fast. But then it also has a touch of Cruis’n USA mixed in too. The side-scenery flies by you at break-neck speed and the game’s racing is smoother than a Barry White album covered in melted butter. The cars even crash and flip in the air, just like OutRun. There is no falling out of the car and being scolded by your blonde girlfriend though… which is actually a good thing as it keeps the fast pace of the game up.

If you do crash or are not too happy with how you took a corner, there is a handy rewind feature. This is not something new as the Forza games have used rewinding for years now. Still, how it is used here is a little different. In Forza, you can spam the rewind and go back quite a way. Here, you are limited to one 5-second rewind at a time, you then have to wait for it to recharge before using it again. So you can’t spam the rewind feature and make things too easy for yourself. You have to think if it’s worth using the rewind for a crash, or will you need it later? Slipstream even has a (titular) slipstream mechanic. Get behind an opponent and stay behind them long enough for a speed boost. It’s simple and works well… as long as you’re not heading into a corner.

SLIPSTREAM SCREEN 2

Speaking of corners, there is also a drifting mechanic and if I’m being honest, this was something I had a slight issue with. I love drifting in an arcade racer and it does work here. But getting it to work in the first place is a bit fiddly. You have to release the accelerator, turn in the direction you want to go, tap the break and then back on the accelerator to begin the drifting. It’s just all a bit cumbersome, especially when things get frantic on the track. Your fingers have to work overtime on some of the more twisty tracks. I’d have much preferred a single button that started the drifting, or just a simple tap on the brakes as you turn. There is an auto-drifting mode where the car will drift when you turn and all you have to do is worry about the accelerator. But the issue with this is that the car will always drift, even when you don’t need it to.

Another thing is that is, I think some kind of indication of the previous routes you’ve taken would be great. As with OutRun, when you reach a fork in the road, you choose to go left or right. But you do kind of forget which route you’ve taken on previous runs (did I go left here or right?). When you reach a fork, signposts for which stage is next pop up and if those signposts had an indication to tell you that yes, you have been down that route before, you’d know you try the other route instead. Something as simple as a tick on the signpost to let you know that you’ve already gone that way would be great.

SLIPSTREAM SCREEN 5

The gameplay is as to be expected for an arcade racer. It’s all about going as fast as you can. Weave in and out of traffic and screech around corners. It’s simple but really bloody enjoyable. There’s a great selection of synthpop songs that feel like they’ve fallen right out of the arcade in the 1980s too. I’ll even put my neck on the line and say some of them are almost as good as the awesome OutRun soundtrack. Okay, so there is nothing as amazing as Passing Breeze or Magical Sound Shower but there are still some really great tunes here and tunes that compliment the fast and frantic gameplay perfectly.

Around £8 is what you’re going to have to pay for Slipstream, which does lead me to how I always finish my reviews. Is the coin you pay worth what the game offers? Honestly, there really is a lot of content here, for an arcade racer. So many different game modes and then you have the numerous variables and customisation options to tailor the game to your personal skillset, like three separate difficulty settings for each mode. The amount of accessibility options here is impressive and really opens up the game for anyone to pick up and play. You don’t have to be an arcade racer master to play Slipstream as you can tinker with the many options and create your own difficulty level. For under £8, there is a lot of game here and if you love the arcade racer genre, I recommend you get Slipstream on your ‘to play’ list ASAP. You can buy a copy for all systems right here.

SLIPSTREAM SCREEN 3

I’ve played a few retro arcade racers over the last couple of years and most of them try to capture that OutRun feel. Some have done well too. Slipstream is the closest you’ll get to being back in the arcades, circa 1987, without actually playing OutRun.

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