If it’s retro racing you’re looking for, you don’t have to look far on Switch. The likes of Hotshot Racing, Formula Retro Racing, Horizon Chase Turbo and the Sega Ages versions of Virtua Racing and Out Run have ensured that anyone keen on a racing game of the vintage vehicular variety is practically spoiled for choice.
Slipstream is the latest game to be added to this ever-growing list, and given that other games have attempted its '80s-style look in the past (we’re looking at you, 80s Overdrive), its art style doesn’t feel particularly unique these days. It’s fortunate, then, that there’s still a pretty fun racing game underneath what has become a fairly overused aesthetic.
The game clearly takes inspiration from '80s arcade racers like Out Run (as well as another Sega title, which we’ll get to), with high speed road racing and wild, comically long turns very much the order of the day. In an attempt to add some variety to proceedings, though, there are a handful of modes that each take the action in a different direction.
Grand Prix is your typical Mario Kart situation, where you’ve got three cups consisting of numerous races, with points awarded based on where you finish. Grand Tour, meanwhile, is more like Out Run, where you have to make your way through five connected stages within a time limit, with forks at the end of each stage determining where you end up next. Then there’s Cannonball, which is similar to Grand Tour but with more customisation, allowing you to create one long race with up to 30 stages, which you can choose manually from the 15 tracks available.
As previously mentioned, once you’re on the road itself Out Run is the key influence, but it’s an interesting hybrid because while its appearance is clearly based on the 1986 Sega original, the handling features a powerslide mechanic which feels a lot more like its polygonal sequel Out Run 2.
While it’s possible to get through most turns by simply turning and braking where needed, in order to efficiently get round each track you’re going to have to master powersliding. This is performed by briefly tapping the brake button then jamming the accelerator again, swinging out the back of the car. The powersliding in Slipstream takes a few races to get used to, because the timing is crucial: start too early or too late and you’ll be crashing into the trackside scenery (flipping over Out Run-style, naturally). Once you’ve nailed it, though, it can be immensely satisfying to swing round a particularly tight turn as the back of your car barely avoids brushing against the numerous obstacles at the side of the track.
That said, the track design can make for some frustrating moments at first. Many of the tracks are designed in such a way that some turns lead straight into opposite turns with no warning, meaning if you don’t know they’re coming you almost certainly won’t be able to pull off a second powerslide in time and will crash.
This is remedied to an extent with the addition of a rewind button which lets you bring the action back a few seconds, allowing you to then anticipate the turn, but realistically this feels like papering over the cracks: you shouldn’t have to rely on a rewind system, even on tracks that are new to you. Of course, as you learn each stage you’ll eventually memorise which turns lead quickly into opposite turns, meaning this becomes less of an issue over time, but it can still prove annoying during the first few hours of gameplay.
Naturally, special mention does have to go to the game’s graphics, which are handled in a cleverly effective way by essentially attempting to replicate the pseudo-3D style of Sega‘s ‘Super Scaler’ racing games like Out Run and Super Hang-On. While the game is technically 3D and its tracks are polygonal, then, the cars and scenery all look like flat sprites. When you’re zooming through the tracks at high speed (especially when the titular slipstreams are activated) at a rock solid 60fps, the effect can be really impressive. We may personally be over the whole '80s thing, but when it’s handled well it’s handled well.
One thing that did strike us as particularly odd, however, is the way Slipstream makes numerous references to the Sonic the Hedgehog series for no apparent reason. Of the 15 tracks in the game, seven of them have the same name as Sonic or Sonic R stages (Chemical Plant, Ice Cap, Emerald Hills, Resort Island, etc), while winning a cup gives you a special celebration screen where your trophy is surrounded by what can only be described as Chaos Emeralds. Grand Prix races are called ‘Acts’ (and are introduced with a splash screen identical to those in 16-bit Sonic games), and the 3-2-1 countdown uses a design blatantly nicked from Sonic Mania.
We would understand this if Sonic was linked to the game in any sort of way, tenuous or otherwise, but the connection — beyond the speed — is just so random the whole thing feels oddly out of place. The odd nod here or there would be one thing but the references are so frequent that anyone well-versed in Sonic won’t necessarily appreciate them: they’re likely to be distracted by them and wonder why they’re there. There’s paying homage to something, and there’s just dumping references to it wholesale without rhyme or reason.
The music is also something of a mixed bag. It’s your typical helping of '80s-style synth retro soundtrack but none of it really clicked with us in a way that had us turning up our headphone volume. It’s a ‘safe’ collection of tracks that matches the aesthetic without necessarily going above and beyond to create any truly memorable bangers. It’s one of those situations where if there was no music, its absence would be noticeable but its presence isn’t remarkable in any way.
Despite the negativity in this review, the one main thing that should to be taken from it is that, at its core, there’s some solid racing action to be had here once you get used to the handling and the corners coming out of nowhere. Given its reasonable price point, too, it’s a perfectly acceptable racer if you’re looking for something different that’ll keep you busy for a few hours.
There’s also local split screen multiplayer for 2-4 players, which includes almost all of the single-player modes (the only exception is Grand Tour because of its multiple routes). Everything still runs nice and smoothly in split-screen, so it’s yet another fine option for those seeking some local multiplayer racing goodness.
We may feel that the '80s style has been overused and that Slipstream doesn’t push it forward in any remarkable way, but aesthetics and music are obviously down to personal taste so your mileage may vary (so to speak). Ultimately, there’s enough to do here to justify the relatively low price the game is selling for, so you certainly won’t feel short-changed if you buy it.
Slipstream’s retro design feels a little by-the-numbers to us (its cool 2D/3D visual effect aside), but that’s not to say it doesn’t pull off the mechanics well. It shouldn’t be the first game in your retro racing collection with the likes of Sega Ages Out Run and Horizon Chase Turbo already available, but if you’ve played through those and are itching for more then you could do a lot worse than this, especially given its modest price.
Liked the look of this since the kickstarter……. Day 1 for me👍
Looks like OutRunners. I'm sold.
Heh, the opposite turn out of nowhere? Reminds me of the first stage in Outrun.
It does a fast left-right-left designed to demolish anyone who didn't anticipate or speed down.
Is it overtly synthwave music? I can’t get behind your run of the mill synth tracks, it’s too tacky
For $10 this ain't bad. Will try it next week.
If I already have 80’s Overdrive (and dig on it) is there reason enough to get this too?
I have the game in Steam and really recommend it.
Sega Ages de Virtua Racing não está mais disponível para compra
That sonic tangent reminds me how Darkened Skye featured Skittles, but no one knew from the marketing (at least the game box itself). Only once played was it apparent that skittles played a major role.
Hadn’t heard of this. But looks ok. Thanks for the review Chris. I will pick it up.
Most likely, yes. I have 80s Overdrive on Switch and this on Steam. When I played it, Slipstream was leagues better than 80s Overdrive and I think it has even been updated since. It plays a lot better.
"We may feel that the '80s style has been overused..."
Oh, it absolutely is, and I hope I see less pining nostalgia in games over the coming years.
But it also just feels right for a game like this, you know? I'm excited to check this one out. And for only $10? Yes please!
Removed - unconstructive feedback
@Kineas I like the tagline. 😂
Looks good, I might get it although I didn't like 80s Overdrive on 3DS at all. And I also wonder why Super Hang On isn't on Sega AGES? It was on Wii Arcade VC (with motion controls too!) and on 3DS!
Kind of a weird review. Track memorization is a key component of basically every racing game ever made, so dinging the game for having to learn the track layouts to avoid crashing is downright ludicrous. And they admitted that it executes its art style flawlessly but also criticized it because it thinks the art style is overused? Do any other recent games even used this aesthetic besides 80s Overdrive and maaybe Horizon Chase Turbo (although that's more Virtua Racing than Outrun)??? Even if there are others I'm not aware of, it seems silly to complain about the art style if when it pulls it off so well. And I'm not the world's biggest Sonic fan either but complaining about the game paying homage to Sonic also seems really silly.
Still wish Drift Stage could have been completed. It was one of the first race games with an 80s aesthetic. The Myrone soundtrack sounded great for the game.
@DestructoDisk Reviews are literally opinions, though. There is no such thing as an "objective" review, because reviews are assessments and/or examinations.
Already on my wish list, arcade racers are still one of my favouite genres. This looks like OutRunners level super scaling, looking forward to playing it. I found Hotshot Racing disappointing in comparrison to something like Daytona USA, so hopefully this captures the classic arcade style a little better.
@john_lennon999 Shame they ended the AGES line on Switch, so much potential. Was also a shame Turbo OutRun never left Japan on 3DS.
@Rubbercookie Ha, that uphill corner on stage 4 in OutRun can still catch me out if there is a lot of traffic!
@DestructoDisk "yes a review is an opinion."
this is true. glad we could reach this understanding together 🤝
@DestructoDisk I feel like this more says you haven't read many reviews than anything; movie/television (and restaurant, certainly) reviews, in the paper or otherwise, are much in line with this one, even just regular product rules tend to have subjective biases (i.e.: a review of a speaker saying it's too bassy, or a TV's colors looking off--this varies person to person)
this is the entire reason behind looking at multiple reviews
@DestructoDisk many consumers and many reviewers prefer their TVs either warm or cool (I'm definitively a cool person) which goes into color accuracy and what is considered most accurate (tends to bias towards warm from reviews i've seen)
mass market reviews are also generally not for the enthusiast/professional who is getting really, really into the nitty-gritty about the best calibrated TV, to be fair
@DestructoDisk - I can't decide whether to be honoured that you think my review is important enough to be compared to nuclear war.
At the end of the day, as others have said, it's my own personal opinion, and even then I'm not arrogant enough to decide everyone should share it - the last paragraph literally explains that even though I think this whole 'retro 80s' thing has been massively overdone in recent years, it's all down to personal taste. "Your mileage may vary," I believe I say.
@accc - I don't think it's "ludicrous" to criticise the game for having corners that come out of nowhere. Track memorisation may be a key component to getting better at most racing games, but most good ones also have enough measures in place to make sure players don't have a frustrating experience when they play a new track for the first time – be that designing the tracks in a way that turns are clearly visible in advance, providing an on-screen map or simply flashing up big arrows. This game does nothing like that, meaning the first couple of hours with it are a bit annoying.
@DestructoDisk With the greatest of respect, I have a BA (Hons) degree in Journalism, have my full Media Law training and have been doing this professionally for 16 years. I also don't think it's fair to the rest of the team to be bringing up "legal red zones" out of nowhere, simply because you disagree with me giving my opinion in a review (which is exactly what a review is).
If you want to read something where there's TRULY "no room for personal opinons", I respectfully suggest you read the description of the game on the eShop, because I believe what you're looking for is a list of facts, not a review.
@DestructoDisk I don't want to hijack these comments and turn it into a back-and-forth about what constitutes a review, but I have to admit that I just can't fathom this "public facing" versus "personal" thing. My reviews are public-facing because the public read them. They're also personal because they're my personal opinion.
It is impossible to give a review that doesn't "come from deep personal preferences". That's the very definition of an opinion. If it isn't my own "personal preference" then it isn't my opinion. Would you rather I pretended not to have an opinion, and just second-guess what every other publication is going to say so that my review matches theirs?
If you wish to discuss this further I'm easy to find elsewhere: like I say, I don't really want to take over the comments here.
I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree here. For what it's worth, I am a huge fan of racing games (which is why I'm asked to review so many of them on here), and as an old fart pushing 40 I'm a huge fan of all things retro too.
This wasn't a case of someone who hates this type of thing being asked to cover it, this was a case of someone who loves this type of thing feeling like it's being over-saturated now, and I personally don't think that's a particularly outrageous thing to point out, as long as it's pointed out with evidence (i.e. the numerous high quality retro racers rhymed off at the start).
With regards to being over 80s racers, I will never be over them. I'm a diehard retro gamer. Personally I get fed up with these imitation games trying to be all retro. Some nail it most don't, what really needs to happen is for Sega to convert all it 80s and 90s racers to Switch then we will truly experience the golden era of arcade racing.
@scully1888 I bet you didn’t think you’d still have people questioning your journalistic credentials 15 years after ONM 😂
Anyone else surprised that Capcom didn't mind that they had a (scaling) Racer in the 90s with the literal same name?
"overused 80s style"
That's a strange complain as IMO you have to differentiate between 80s pixelart and 80s(and 90s) (super)Scaler.
There are hundrets of 80s pixelart games on switch and how many scalers? maybe 10 and 80% of them are racers.
Non-racing scalers like Rambo III, GI Joe, Arabian Fight, Galaxy Force (II) and Thunder Blade are sadly missing.
Which is odd as the 3DS had SUPERB M2 ports of Thunder Blade and Galaxy Force.
@Austrian Arcade Thunder Blade was on 3DS? Aw I thought it was the super-mediocre Mega Drive game Super Thunder Blade. I bet the 3D on it looked ace as well.
There are a few Sega arcade games that you simply don't see being re-released — Altered Beast, After Burner, Golden Axe (I think because the latter two have licensing issues tied into them)
I find it amusing that just because there are about a half-dozen or so either true retro racing games or modern games using their design ideas, that the reviewer calls the aesthetic "fairly overused." Really? Just a half-dozen retro racers is on the verge of "too many" is how I interpret that.
Yeah, because we need every single racing game to mimic real life scenery and objects in three dimensions withrealistic lighting and shading, just like Gran Turismo and Forza, to the point of being nearly photorealistic, and even a half-dozen games not conforming to the current "standard" is getting to be a bit too much.
Either way, I own all of those mentioned games (at least the ones currently available), I will be picking up this one when I get paid tomorrow, and I will happily buy any good racing game with an 80s-style look and feel. The more the better, the style doesn't get old. Maybe I'm just old enough to actually appreciate the style.
This game caught my attention on the eShop as I was looking at upcoming games. Personally, sprite/horizon-chasing/retro racing game inspired by Rad Racer/Outrun gets my attention usually and I'm glad it reviewed good enough to stay on my wishlist for a future sale, hopefully.
As for the Sonic direct dumping, perhaps this started as a Sonic R fan-game sequel until they changed it to cars?
On the off chance anyone scrolls all the way through the irrelevant comments...
I really like this game and have put several dozen hours into the Steam version. I recommend it to all retro game fans at $10, and all gamers period if it ever goes on sale. If you are like me and still find yourself playing the original Outrun every now and then, this game scratches that itch wonderfully, and perhaps even better with modern QOL such as rewind and tweakable difficulty. The game can feel unfair to beginners at times, but the skill ceiling in this game is deceptively high, and running a flawless race in the fastest car is really satisfying.
The complaint about the industry saturation of '80s music and visual design is not totally unfair, but one should also keep in mind that this game originally released in 2018, when perhaps this reviewer wouldn't have been quite so burned out on it.
EDIT: I'd also like to add that I was surprised to see accel/brake mapped to A and B by default, and I personally find the game much more comfortable at ZR and ZL respectively.
I have Thunderblade 3D on my 3DS and its IMO the best 3D classic by far.
@Toshiro_Baloney This is a much better game then 80s Overdrive. This one has been on pc for ages so less jaded reviews are not hard to find.
To anyone that has got this far all this time later.... if you like old school arcade racers BUY THIS GAME!!! whilst it takes half an hour to get used to the controls (in my defence I was playing Horizon Chase before getting this...), once that clicks it really is good fun!! The aesthics, the music all gel and if you have ever enjoyed any of the OutRun games you won't be disappointed... promise!! 😉😉😉
edit: Looks at review score: Oh wait it’s 7/10… for some reason I was sure it had been scored 6/10. I agree with the score then (add 1 point if you’re into retro racers like I am) tho the review is way too harsh imo.
I’m glad I went ahead and disregarded this review, I bought this and I think that it’s a great little game, and different than the other attempts at “retro” 2d arcade racing. Definitely prefer SS to Horizon Chase Turbo (tho I haven’t tried the Senna expansion). Only thing I agree with is that the soundtrack is disappointing and a more memorable soundtrack would have made the experience better. It’s designed with 80/90s arcade sensibilities in mind, meant to be replayed a ton, and while I think you can still get further and shave those corners even without knowing every inch, you do need to learn the tracks and how far to push on the gas/drift for the harder turn-to-turn segments. exactly like with Outrun. I’m really enjoying it, and with better backgrounds variety/flair for the various stages (which basically have a theme and just repeat those tiles for the whole stage 90% of the time) and soundtrack, it would’ve been even better. Considering the price, if you like Yu Suzuki’s racing output I feel safe in recommending it!
Also, who gives a hoot about the Sonic references so much as to bash the game so hard because of that, for several lines even, in a review like this? C’mon.
Tap here to load 38 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...