It’s probably safe to say that, as a series, Ridge Racer has seen better days. Once upon a time, it was one of the jewels in PlayStation’s crown, but those days have long passed. Sure, there are new entries every once in a while, but they never arrive with quite the fanfare that they used to.
But here’s the obligatory mobile device version, which, despite a few issues, is actually a rather close approximation of what a Ridge Racer game should be, albeit built from the ground up with a touch-screen device’s strengths and weaknesses in mind.
The basic elements of Ridge Racer are in in place here: the appearance of series mascot Reiko Nagase, a few references to classic Namco arcade cabinets here and there, and a pumping electronic soundtrack. Oh, and drifting. Lots of drifting. Joining these essential ingredients are ten classic Ridge Racer tracks and a hefty amount of unlockable cars to burn around in.
Playing in either a Career Mode championship or a straight single-race Arcade mode, you purchase a vehicle with the meagre funds you begin the game with, and from then on you can customise your machine both cosmetically and technically by purchasing upgrades for a small fee. You can also purchase up to three single-use perks to help your progress, such as reducing the amount of speed loss after a collision, or allowing you to instantly start the race with a tank of nitrous. All perks and upgrades are purchasable with in-game money, but this being a mobile game, currency can be purchased with real money. This isn’t a free to play game, but at least the game gives you enough in-game cash through race wins to negate the need to spend any more money.
When it’s finally time to start the race, it’s clear that a lot of work has been put into making Slipstream feel as close to the classic Ridge Racer arcade experience as possible. Multiple control schemes are available, allowing you to tilt or use on-screen buttons to steer, and even automatically accelerate so you only need to worry about breaking and drifting. Using the on-screen buttons and auto-accelerate, I found the controls to work far better than many other mobile driving games, and you’ll be effortlessly drifting around corners in no time.
Which is good, because drifting is the key to winning races here. A tap of the brake pad while steering is enough to slide you around corners, and while it sometimes feels that the game takes care of steering during drifting, the arcade feeling is successfully retained. As the title dictates, slipstreaming is also important when trailing the pack – when driving directly behind a rival driver, an icon will appear on-screen to let you know you’re successfully slipstreaming, and can expect an increase in speed – sometimes enough to push you in front.
You can’t fault Slipstream graphically. The visuals are pin-sharp and look absolutely gorgeous on a Retina device – more importantly, I didn’t notice a single frame of slowdown. The racing action is as silky smooth as it is gorgeous, a Ridge Racer hallmark that I’m glad to see has been carried over to this smaller version.
Ten tracks (and mirror modes of each) doesn’t sound like a lot of content, but with plenty of Career championships and multiple car ability classes, there’s plenty of classic arcade racing action to keep you going. Admittedly, this is more a game that you’ll want to play in short bursts, as lengthy sessions can cause the racing action to outstay it’s welcome somewhat.
VERDICT: With a lot of free to play racers out there, Ridge Racer Slipstream faces some fierce competition, especially as this is a paid app. But unlike some of the more popular mobile juggernauts on the App Store, Slipstream has completely non-essential in app purchases.
Oddities with drift handling aside, this is as classic as arcade racers get, and for track-based thrills and spills, you could do a lot worse. If Ridge Racer hasn’t gone stale for you yet, then this is one of the better mobile racers out there.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.
Review code provided by publisher.