Tube Slider marks NEC's return to the North American video game market after a nearly decade-long hiatus that began with the fall of the company's own video game platform, the TurboGrafx-16. It may warm the hearts of sentimental gamers to see NEC's name on a video game once again, but unfortunately for them, and for NEC, Tube Slider is as an uninspired futuristic racer, and it definitely isn't the comeback hit they might've hoped for.
The premise is fairly predictable, and it doesn't stray far from what's been established by previous futuristic racers. You compete in a league that races incredibly fast hovercraft across a variety of different landscapes. The selection of craft that you'll have at your disposal is pretty generous, and the different craft are all surprisingly unique in shape and size, ranging from hulking, tanklike behemoths to sleek, lugelike rockets. Each craft has its own strengths and weaknesses in terms of performance, and you'll definitely find that certain craft perform better on specific tracks than others.
The most unique aspect of Tube Slider is the tracks themselves. Instead of racing along flat strips of track flanked by barriers on either side, you'll pilot your craft through round tubes that you can race along the top, sides, or bottom of, however you see fit--though there's definitely a "right" way to make your way through each course. It's an interesting extension of the low-gravity theme featured in most futuristic racers, but it's betrayed by the game's physics, which make it difficult to maintain your speed. The actual track designs don't take full advantage of the tube-shaped track idea, either. The combination of these two factors keeps the gameplay from being as visceral as it should be. The sensation of speed, which is key to a satisfying futuristic racing experience, is also a bit underwhelming, and the gameplay options are a bit meager, giving you a training mode, a league competition mode, and a multiplayer variant. Tube Slider also has a sparse selection of power-ups, including a few speed enhancers and a single offensive power-up that lets you siphon speed from a racer positioned in front of you. The races end up being pretty tame affairs, and Tube Slider definitely could've benefited from a wider, wilder selection of power-ups.
The game's presentation doesn't pick up much of the slack, either. The tracks tend to look like your average futuristic racing courses, except that they're covered with an industrial-looking mix of translucent wire mesh and steel girders. Outside the track, you'll see barren desert landscapes, dense jungles, sunny beaches, and some nondescript futuristic scenery, most of which lack definition and are fairly bland. The vehicles in Tube Slider are the most fully realized aspect of the game, each with its own unique look and feel and some nice, smaller touches like articulated wings and various other moving parts. The game generally keeps visual flash to a minimum, and save for the glow coming off the bottom of your craft, you won't see much in the way of particle or lighting effects. The soundtrack is a quirky blend of techno tracks reminiscent of old SNK fighting game music and wailing rock guitars, which works well enough within the game's context.
In the end, Tube Slider is a generally uninteresting futuristic racer that doesn't do anything that hasn't already been done, and done better, by previous futuristic racers. The big draws of the futuristic racing genre have always been ludicrously fast vehicles and inventive, over-the-top track designs that would be infeasible in a standard modern-day racing game, and Tube Slider simply fails to deliver on both of those counts. GameCube owners looking for some high-speed futuristic racing would be better off with Acclaim's Extreme-G 3.