The vibe from the 90s exactly as you could ever remember
Nostalgia is an important factor to understand the game industry nowadays. Of course, new IPs and concepts get released every week, but we probably never had so much new titles looking to the past as an inspiration (or, sometimes, just as a selling point). I'm not talking only about ports, remasters or collections, but also about all the sequels and spiritual successors we see today. At this point, being "retro" is almost a genre in itself, for indie devs or big companies.
Some of them just use this as an excuse to use outdated design principles (without understanding why use them) or weak pixel art visuals to falsely appeal to an audience that misses the old times. Slipstream is the completely opposite of this. Created as a love letter to the 16-bit era of racing games, this title created by the solo Brazilian developer ansdor understands and respects the nostalgia of Top Gear (and lookalikes) to create something original but extremely familiar.
(a personal note: we, Brazilians, sometimes grace a thing made outside our country with a "Brazilian culture honorary title". we did this with El Chavo, we did this with Woody Woodpecker, and we definitely did this with Top Gear. if you see a project inspired by Top Gear in this decade, you can bet there's some Brazilian involved, and I'm always happy when I remember this)
Content-wise, Slipstream is a really simple arcade racing game. You choose a car, some options (like manual or automatic drifting), and a mode to play. There is some classics of the genre, like time trials, single races or 4-race Grand Prix, but you also have some different ones, like a Battle Royale mode. My favorite, though, was called Grand Tour: you have a big panoramic trip between five different stages (that you can choose during the race), and you get points trying to surpass a rival in each sector.
Mechanically, it also pay homage to the old games, but, to me, this isn't for the best: it's a too simple experience for an arcade racing game made for a modern audience. Turning the car and feeling the acceleration is great and responsive and really well-made, and there's some cool accessibility functions, that can also be used to personalize your experience if you are not too familiar with the game's style. If you are really bad though, you have a rewind function that can be used after crashing (that mostly put me in a position to crash again, but still).
Besides that though, you can only drift to pass hard curves and get more speed getting behind another car — also called "slipstream", this can give a huge boost if you don't crash too much. With most of the stages being completely flat and hard to distinct between each other, I was expecting that the gameplay had the same variety than the visuals. It was good to play, but the experience became repetitive too early for me.
BUT TALKING ABOUT THAT, SLIPSTREAM IS A GORGEOUS GAME. I'm so glad that my Switch was docked when I started the game for the first time, because the visual work of this title is genuinely beautiful. All the colors and pixels just popped from the TV, and for the first races, I was just losing positions to just appreciate those graphics. Instead of limiting itself with the capacities of a Mega Drive, for example, it just had gone beyond the past and put it on the screen what every 90s child really imagined the games were at the time. The VHS effect on the rewind was a really nice touch.
I truly believe that new games that uses nostalgia as a starting point mustn't just gave me more of the past. If I want to play those games again, I will just play them again, you know? Slipstream have some flaws, but does an amazing job of bringing the same vibe and feeling in a new and original game. Mechanically it isn't that great, but visually it just transforms memories into pixels in a screen so beautifully. For the 2020s, it can be a little repetitive, but there's no doubt that in an alternative reality of the 1990s (and in the heart of those that lived it), Slipstream is already a classic.