Keep Drifting – Slipstream Review

Slipstream Title Screen

Developer: ansdor
Released: May 20th 2018
Price: $9.99

Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X
Available on: GOG, itch.io, Steam
Engine: Java, libgdx

Upon its release on GOG, I had wasted no time in picking up Slipstream, a racing game inspired by the racing classic, Outrun. Available for Windows, Linux and Mac, the game is developed by ansdor using Java (included as a runtime with the game) and libgdx, the game was developed entirely using free, open-source Linux tools, which sets it apart from the market’s usage of GameMaker and Unity.

Gameplay

Slipstream offers six modes which can be played on Easy, Medium or Hard, and can be played regularly or in reverse. All of them are available in multiplayer with some exceptions.

  • Grand Tour, which is like Outrun in that you race against the clock and choose your routes, while also facing off rivals and avoiding traffic. Not available in multiplayer.
  • Cannonball, which is a customizable mix between Grand Tour’s traffic and rivals and the normal Single Race mode, and where you get to choose the tracks you want to drive through.
  • Grand Prix, which offers three cups wherein you earn money by winning races and use them to upgrade your car.
  • Single Race, which lets you select a track and the number of laps and racers.
  • Time Trial, where you try to attain the best time using three laps in any track. Not available in multiplayer.
  • Battle Royale, where you drive through all locales while avoiding last position and elimination.

All the modes excel in their variety. No mode feels the same; Battle Royale is a stressing test of endurance, while Grand Prix lets you take breaks between races to upgrade your car according to your needs.

Slipstreaming behind an opponent car.
Slipstreaming behind an opponent car.

You can choose from five cars with different specs for any situation. For example, I find myself driving better with Epsilon, which is focused on handling. All the game’s tracks include sharp turns which you must steer through by drifting – which you can activate by letting go of the gas, hitting the brakes and then hitting the gas again. Although the tracks are mostly linear roads without much in the way of obstacles, I think most of the game’s fun is in pulling off great drifts and in rapid succession. You will find tracks with wide roads and curves (like Highgate Cemetery) or tracks with frequent twists and turns to throw you off (like Emerald Hills). In Grand Tour or Cannonball, however, you also get to deal with traffic.

In Grand Tour, Cannonball or Battle Royale, you also deal with rivals, who are harder and more personalized than normal racers, with a couple of lines that you can disable in the settings. In most cases, you can gain slipstream from traffic, other racers or rivals, by staying behind them until the “slipstream” is spelled at the bottom-right. The game is forgiving in its punishments, as you will most likely only lose some of your speed when your car flies off the road, and only a marginal loss should your car’s back repeatedly hit something. The most punishing however is when a car bumps you while you’re drifting, which causes you to spin out of control, but otherwise, if you bump other cars, they will only be pushed forwards without much of a speed loss. The game is fair overall, unless you play Battle Royale on Hard. I have never managed to complete it in first despite my best efforts, and any single mistake there is costly.

Selecting a car. You can also change a car’s color by pressing Up or Down.
Selecting a car. You can also change a car’s color by pressing Up or Down.

Art and Everything Else

I think Slipstream’s retro look perfectly goes with what the drift-heavy gameplay, closely emulating the feel of old racing games while adding on them with drifts. You can also set visual effects such as CRT, NTSC or PAL, and there’s even a 30FPS cap toggle which is off by default. The music is also a great touch, with some tracks empowering you and some that are nice for a calm cruise. In addition, you can add your own music to the game’s folder in App Data (under ansdorGames). You can drift to the tune of the Eurobeat if you want. The game includes in-game achievements; a rare sight because not many games bake an achievement interface directly into the game. It also means you can reset your save data and gain these achievements again.

However, what I don’t like about Slipstream is how tunnels and Grand Tour transitions often result in framerate drops, which is bad for a racing game. The other thing is that, at least for the GOG version, despite being present as a menu option and in warnings, the leaderboards are disabled.

Racing against Takum- Tofu Boy in…Chemical Plant.
Racing against Takum- Tofu Boy in…Chemical Plant.

In conclusion

If you’re looking for an old-school racing package with a modern touch, Slipstream won’t disappoint you. There’s a lot to be done in the game thanks to all the available modes and the customization some of them offer. I recommend giving it a test ride.

If you’re looking for an Outrun experience on the go, you can also check out our review of Final Freeway 2R for Android.

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