Slipstream: Blue Hour mini review

You only need to glance at Slipstream’s screenshots to see that it was inspired by SEGA’s seminal racer Outrun. Play it for just a few minutes, and you’ll see that the admiration for SEGA runs even deeper, with the presentation paying homage to Sonic the Hedgehog 2. A handful of racetracks, ergo their trackside detailing, also have some rather brazen nods to the blue blur.

But rather than lean into the love for SEGA further, perhaps with new tracks inspired by lesser-known SEGA greats, Brazilian solo developer ansdor has looked to the skies for inspiration for Slipstream’s new, free, expansion. No, not aliens, but rather the blue hour – the brief period of the day between sunset and night, where the fading light softly illuminates everything it touches.

The expansion’s five new racetracks take place during blue hour, and this time round ansdor has opted for real world locations – Marseille, Pompeii, Transylvania, Granada, and Edinburgh – rather than futuristic neon-drenched cities, tropical beaches, and industrial locations. The backdrops for these locations have a slight watercolour aesthetic, and perhaps except for Transylvania with its cartoonish spooky trees, these locales are far more grounded.

As a sprite scaling racer, the track layouts – across the board– aren’t particularly varied, being a mixture of hill climbs, tunnels, long straights, and tight bends to drift around. In the new tracks, it’s noticeable that some sections are far narrower, increasing the possibility of either flipping the opposition or yourself.

The tracks are good looking too, sporting new lighting effects. Nothing quite compares to the spectacle of playing Slipstream for the first time, though, hurtling downhill to glimpse a field of flowers formed of countless 2D sprites. Indeed, the custom engine employed here is pretty impressive; it throws around sprites effortlessly and moves like greased lightning. For all its retro appeal, the consoles of the ‘90s would have never been able to pull off something like this.

If you played Slipstream at launch in 2018, you’ll know that it’s generous with content – it even features a 16 vehicle battle royale. With the new tracks forming a new cup to complete, along with a new random mode to play through, there’s a lot more to get stuck into. Handily, it does a good job of charting your progress, tallying up rivals defeated, courses beaten, and exits discovered in the branching Outrun-style mode.

Three new vehicles additionally join the roster, bearing some wild stats – the neon pink Spectre has both poor acceleration and handling, with only top speed to compensate. The Wellenreiter isn’t greatly removed from the good allrounder Type23 – the game’s cover star – either. But with now eight vehicles to choose from, the selection does feel more rounded and balanced overall.

It’s easy to admire how quietly confident Slipstream is, even five years on from launch. Maybe more so now, seeing that ansdor has given the game engine a retune. This is a game built around the strengths and constraints of that engine – one the developer knows inside and out.

It’s still thoroughly retro – the modern takes on Virtual Racing are more nuanced, going by those that we’ve played – but you’ll still be pushed hard to find a racer that embraces the past this passionately.   

Slipstream launched in 2018 on PC and reached consoles in 2022, published by BlitWorks. It’s now available on Xbox Series to coincide with the Blue Hour update, with a PS5 release to follow.