The Real Racing series has long been the dominant racing simulation experience for iOS devices, but when it comes to arcade racing, Ridge Racer has long been king across many platforms. Ridge Racer Slipstream is the latest title for iOS, following Accelerated's release in 2009, and the game takes full advantage of the power of today's technology.
Looking nearly as good as a full-fledged console release, the first thing you'll notice about Slipstream is how gorgeous it is. The game runs silky smooth on the iPhone 5s, and everything from the roadway to the reflections on your speed machine is incredibly detailed for a mobile racer.
That same attention to detail has been paid to the game's deep car-customization system, allowing you to upgrade virtually every part of your ride. You can flesh out your engine performance, add additional nitrous, swap out your wheels or even add flashy vinyl decals. Purchases are made using in-game currency, which you obtain from winning races, or you can open your real-world wallet and buy some credits. As is almost always the case, taking the shortcut feels a bit like cheating, and you'll get more satisfaction out of the game by using your actual race winnings to purchase upgrades.
The racing itself is fast and fluid, but if you're looking for anything resembling realistic car handling, you're going to be disappointed. Cars feel very floaty, and the game places a huge emphasis on drifting -- so much so that completing long drifts replenishes your nitro reserves. If you're a Ridge Racer veteran, this will come as no surprise, but if you're new to the series, it may be a painful learning curve.
One thing that is somewhat disappointing about Slipstream is that it doesn't support physical controllers... at least not yet. The game would be a perfect fit for the many new controller accessories popping up for the iPhone, so I'll cross my fingers that developer Namco Bandai decides to add that feature in a future update.
For US$2.99, Ridge Racer Slipstream is a gorgeous racer that lets you suspend reality in favor of white-knuckle thrills, and if you're willing to put in the work to unlock some of the game's more advanced racing machines, it should have a good bit of longevity.