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Drift and Drift – Slipstream Review

Slipstream just drifted into GOG last week. I had wasted no time in picking it up for review. Available for Windows, Linux and Mac, the game is developed by ansdor using Java (included as a runtime with the game), the game was developed entirely using free, open-source Linux tools, which sets it apart from the market’s usage of GameMaker, Unity and rarely Unreal Engine.

Gameplay Modes

Slipstream offers six modes which can be played on Easy, Medium or Hard, and can be played regularly or in reverse. All 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 (with its traffic and rivals) and Single Race mode. You also 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; with Battle Royale a stressful test of endurance, while Grand Prix lets you take breaks between races to upgrade your car according to your needs

Racing across the aptly named Oil Ocean.
Racing across the aptly named Oil Ocean.

Gameplay

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 (a drafting-based speed bonus) 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.

The five cars in question. You can also change their colors by hitting up or down.
The five cars in question. You can also change their colors by hitting 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 %appdata%/ansdorGames/Slipstream/music on Windows. 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 frame-rate 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.

You probably never thought you'd see Not Takumi Fujiwara drifting across Chemical Plant.
You probably never thought you’d see Not Takumi Fujiwara drifting across 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.

You can get the game from GOG here. If you want another game like it for mobile, you can check my Final Freeway 2R review.

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