Developer, Publisher: Bandai Namco America
Released: February 20th, 2014
Reviewed on: Razer Phone, Android 7.1
Ridge Racer: Slipstream perfectly recaptures the feel of once venerable arcade racing series on the PlayStation, known for high-speed races, intense powerslides and pumping techno music. It reminds me of playing Ridge Racer on the PSP handheld many years ago, and then its follow-up Ridge Racer 2, although on a much smaller scale. The series seemingly dropped off the gaming market after the sweet but cold-received Unbounded didn’t ignite enthusiasm in the series for many long time fans . If you desperately missed the series, however, Bandai Namco dropped a free-to-play mobile spin-off Slipstream, which by now is a few years old itself. That isn’t to say this Ridge Racer isn’t worth coming back to; with only few missteps, it takes place among the best arcade racers on mobile, right up there with the recently released Asphalt 9: Legends. Whether it be an extensive career mode, feel of the game’s arcade racing or bright colorful visuals, there is a lot to like in Ridge Racer: Slipstream, even if it makes some errors along the way.
While the game doesn’t boast a large diversity of content, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to sink many hours of your time. Slipstream features 12 extensive grand-prix with 6 championships each, further expanded to 3 races per smaller championship. This equates to 18 races total for a grand prix or challenge, which unfortunately tend to happen along the same tracks. The one big complaint I can level at Ridge: Racer Slipstream is it simply doesn’t have enough variety to offer extensive play in a session. Once you’ve raced three times on the same track in a championship, boredom tends to sink in regardless of the car you’re in or a type of event.
The issue is slightly improved choose you to purchase some of the premium currency, used to unlock events much faster than the game’s career progression. It won’t completely remove repetitive tracks, which are frankly lacking at only 12 to begin with, but is going to inject variety into an otherwise small selection of levels. Most championships are available for purchase before you’d have unlocked them in races, which will speed up the process to unlock them if you do spend some money on the game. Lack of variety is the strongest negative in Ridge Racer: Slipstream, but thankfully doesn’t take much away from the racing experience. Unless you plan to sit through it a few hours in a row, Slipstream’s repetition is less of a drag when you dive into events occasionally.
Racing feels stellar on the other hand, and replicates the series’ simple arcade design with responsive controls, quick acceleration and sharp powerslides. It is as standard as it gets with absence of any tricks or in-depth features, which isn’t to say that’s a bad thing here. Ridge Racer has always been straight to the point without involving players in any complex requirements. Simply driving as fast as you can and sliding around corners is your main objective, and Slipstream fully retains this design idea. Apart from nitrous, you don’t get anything else as addition to the game’s racing, although the titular slipstream feature is also present. This is an uncomplicated set up whereby you gain faster acceleration by following behind an opponent or what’s called slip streaming. Opponents can do the same, so being in first position doesn’t make you safe just yet. Ridge Racer: Slipstream makes a habit of warning you if anyone follows behind you, however, so getting overtaken never comes as even a slight surprise.
Car selection isn’t very broad, but serviceable to engage in many events Ridge Racer: Slipstream has to offer. With four classes containing four vehicles each, there is enough to go around, although you’d likely get stuck using one ride per category. Car stats are improved through a simple upgrade system, persistent to many racing games on the mobile platform, so once you’ve improved your chosen car, there is simply no reason to purchase any others in a class. Thankfully there’s visual upgrades as well, which injects color so you aren’t stuck with exactly the same vehicle for multiple championships. Body kits are a vast improvement over stock rides, as they change up a car’s look completely, each sporting different exhausts, bumpers and spoilers.
The free-to-play economy of Ridge Racer: Slipstream is probably one of the most fair I’ve seen in mobile gaming, although it largely ties into the slow burning progression I’ve mentioned earlier. The game never makes you spend premium currency to play, with no ads to distract from racing or barriers to hinder progress. Oddly, you can purchase a premium version with ads removed, but I never encountered any in the stock version of Slipstream. One place it would come useful is to purchase championships and remove some of the grind associated with the lengthy career mode. The long grand prix events featuring same tracks tend to get uninteresting very fast, and spending some currency can help alleviate the repetition. But once again, there isn’t anything to stop you enjoying the game for absolutely no cost, provided you don’t get bored of repetition too fast.
The multiplayer mode rounds off the suite of features, although at the time of writing I’ve had no luck connecting online whatsoever. Ridge Racer: Slipstream recognizes an internet connection, logging you into the Google Play account, but in-game profile is always listed as “Offline”. It is hard to say if it’s just my issue or it always pertains to the game, but playing multiplayer just doesn’t seem like an option right now, perhaps as the game is over four years old at this point. Online leaderboards will have to suffice for now. If you do get access online, however, there’s standard races and time trial events, which isn’t anything unusual in a racing game and isn’t worth writing home about.
Ridge Racer: Slipstream is a great arcade racer if like me, you used to play the series back on the PSP or other PlayStation consoles. It faithfully recreates its source material, placing it into a free-to-play framework that aside from a few hiccups generally delivers an entertaining experience. Just don’t attempt to play a lot of it in one go, as Slipstream suffers from a lot of repetition with its tracks and events, but get over that, and there is a high quality racing title hidden underneath here.