It's a great shame that you can't buy Outrun on Steam, GOG or any of the digital distribution services—not since the mysterious disappearance of Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast. Outrun is such a pure, uncomplicated arcade masterpiece, letting you experience the joy of skidding past traffic as you race along winding roads, blasting out the absurdly (and thus perfectly) named Magical Sound Shower. But while we're severely lacking in Outrun, we do now have Slipstream (opens in new tab), and it's almost as good.
You drive as fast as you can across roads, racing towards a checkpoint before your timer runs out. Hit one and your time is extended, and you choose whether to go left or right to a new area. And then you do it all again, and again, until you've visited five locations and win. Yes, it is the exact structure of Outrun. Slipstream is a brash, confident game, and that means wearing its inspirations on its sleeves, and on its chest, and basically as a full body suit—a second skin to be modified and adjusted to fit.
There are four buttons. Left and right keys handle steering, X is accelerate, C is brake. Except you should never brake, obviously. Braking is for cowards—for people who don't deserve joy. Instead, you tap the brake and immediately accelerate, launching into a drift that defies physics by making your go faster. The trick to being good at Slipstream is smoothly controlling the drift, and navigating around traffic as you skid. It's tricky to master, but feels good regardless. Even occasional success feels good enough to persist.
Also, and this is very important: look how damn GOOD it looks!
I found the standard arcade mode—ie, the classic Outrun experience—pretty difficult, even once I started to get the hang of drifting. But it's gratifying to see your improvement reflected in the distance you travel, and there are smaller progression markers throughout that hold your interest, such as rivals who challenge you in each zone. The Grand Prix mode feels more immediately manageable. It's a series of races around a single track with no traffic, letting you practice your technique without worrying about Sunday drivers interrupting your flow.
Arguably the weakest part of Slipstream is the system it's named after. Get behind another car and the word "SLIPSTREAM" is spelt out in the bottom corner of the screen. When it completes, you get a boost of speed. It's a fine idea, only seems useful when I'm trying to regain speed after a crash. In those situations it's handy, but not so revelatory that it feels worth naming the entire game after. Even so, Slipstream is well worth your time. After all, it's basically Outrun, and Outrun is great.