Ion Drift Epsilon – A Free Alternative To WipeOut?

One thing that’s always fascinated me as a lover of retro games is the number of times games get remade or how many titles pay homage to the games I grew up with. Usually it’s classics from the arcades of the 80s and early 90s, or some of the more well-known games from the 8-bit and 16-bit era. While modern console gamers are used to seeing remastered editions of their favourites from previous generations, there’s a new trend from an unexpected source…

Web technology has been advancing at an astonishing rate over the last few years. So much so that software that would have needed to be run as standalone apps can now be run directly in a browser thanks to the power of Javascript and HTML5. What this has done is allowed websites to deliver online games that were only previously possible when running on actual hardware. In most cases it’s meant your average Android or iOS inspired titles available freely – puzzle titles, endless runner variants or simplistic yet fun platformers.

Making A Comeback

Then there are games that look somewhat familiar. Retro arcade remakes are commonplace. Classics from the 8-bit and 16-bit era are being reimagined either officially or unofficially to avoid legal complications. You’d think that games of this nature would be limited to old-school titles, and certainly nothing more modern than systems seen in the early 90s. But the capabilities of Javascript and HTML5 are such that we’re even seeing games that are allowing tributes to titles from the early days of the PlayStation…

WipEout Reborn?

Which brings me onto one of the launch titles for the original PlayStation, WipEout. I remember buying this and a small handful of games when the original PSOne was released. While it may have aged badly compared to Wipeout 2048 on the PS Vita, the original was breathtaking at the time. With its stylish visuals and techno soundtrack, the games industry hadn’t seen anything like it before.

So it came as a surprise to discover Ion Drift Epsilon: 3D Time Trials. This game, available to play freely at Plays.org bears more than a passing resemblance to the PlayStation classic, albeit in a more simplified format. Intended for use on web browsers rather than mobile phones (as it’s designed for keyboard control), it’s a stripped down version of WipEout taking the basic elements of the classic and putting them into a more accessible format.

Spread over three tracks, with two race types for each (unlocking in turn as you complete them) it’s a straightforward game. Use the cursors to steer left and right, with up and down to accelerate and brake respectively. There are no weapon pickups but just like its source of inspiration there are markers on the tracks that will give you a momentary speed boost.

Three of the races are time trials, the other three are against an AI opponent and get increasingly tougher as you progress. While six stages may not seem like a great deal, it will keep you occupied for a while, especially as you try to beat the final opponent. Controls will take a little getting used to, especially for those of you used to playing with a controller but they’re fairly easy to pick up.

The sound effects are quite simplistic but there’s some good music throughout. Visually it is quite reminiscent of the original WipEout that’s still available through the PSOne Classics range on the PlayStation Store, but not quite as smooth. However, it is an impressive showcase of the potential of HTML5 and Javascript gaming and I’m certainly eager to see what else can be done.

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About Simon Plumbe 970 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe