REVIEW-Ridge Racer Slipstream

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The first time I successfully drifted around a tight hairpin turn in Ridge Racer Slipstream, I knew that Namco had nailed the series on a touch screen. Fans disappointed with Ridge Racer Unbounded (which I personally had a lot of fun with!) will be more than satisfied with Slipstream, as it’s a return to traditional series’ play control and mechanics. Unfortunately, destructible environments have been swapped for in-app transactions, but Slipstream is thankfully not too negatively impacted by the addition. This is a return to form for Ridge Racer, regardless of being on a mobile device.

Like many mobile racers, Slipstream gives players the option to control their vehicle either through motion or touch inputs. I opted for touch, but both methods are perfectly implemented. I was skeptical that a mobile title would be able to keep up with the demands of turning and drifting that Ridge Racer games are known for, but Namco pulled it off with aplomb. Slipstream effortlessly detects where the player’s fingers are even when things get frantic on-screen.

This pinpoint accuracy is important, because Slipstream is no slouch; this is Ridge Racer through and through. Courses feature a multitude of tricky turns that only increase in deviousness as the game progresses. Opponent driver AI is also solid, ramping up in difficulty without any glaring spikes. Of course, if the computer becomes too easy, there’s always online and local multiplayer to tackle; there’s nothing better than taking on a live person!

It doesn’t hurt that Slipstream is really, really pretty. Silky lighting effects and rendering make the familiar tracks and cars look better than ever. Admittedly, Slipstream‘s courses and cars might feel a bit too much like what’s come before for longtime players, but don’t forget the game is also supposed to function as an anniversary celebration of the series. There’s no denying that older fans might be let down by this lack of new, but I was more than happy to relish in Ridge Racer’s glory days, and I think new players will, too. There are some framerate issues here and there, but they come in spurts and never ruin the experience. I noticed a difference in performance between versions of the game on iOS and Android (iOS was more stable), but, again, it’s a minor issue regardless of your platform of choice. The music and sound effects are also nicely integrated, with the cars sounding burly and the soundtrack keeping the tempo appropriately high.

Where the game could have really gotten iffy was with its microtransactions, but Slipstream does a respectable job of balancing between panhandling and letting the player have fun. What could have been Angry Birds GO! levels of begging is instead a simple upgrade system that rewards you for playing, but will reward you faster if you pay up. My playtime was never impaired by being unable to upgrade my ride, and even when I had to get under the hood, the game was decent about letting me earn the credits I needed through honest playing.

If Reiko Nagase’s smiling face on the menu screens isn’t assuring enough, trust me when I say that Slipstream is easily worth anyone’s time. Everything coalesces to create a fun and engaging experience that will keep players glued to their phones and tablets. While the in-app purchases can be frustrating, they are by no means overly intrusive or aggressive. The framerate might have some hiccups at times, but overall Slipstream is an excellent mobile title worthy of the series’ strong legacy.

Score: 8.8/10

+ Touch and motion controls perfectly keep up with frantic racing gameplay; graphics are excellent; good, solid course design; cars selection and designs are great, despite not being licensed; perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of the series.

– In-app transactions can frustrate; framerate issues; some recycled elements from previous installments.

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