☆ Review: Mantis Burn Racing - "Old school Top-down racing brought to the current generation" ☆ #GameDev #IndieGame

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Mantis Burn Racing - Nintendo Switch
Mantis Burn racing is an arcade racer video game from Voofoo Studios. Released on PS4, PC and Xbox One last year and now ported to the Nintendo Switch, I can imagine that the playing portably on the Switch is probably the best way to get the most out of this game across all platforms.

As I was installing the game, my mind drifted back to the many top-down racers from previous generations, from Super Sprint on the 8-bit machines to Super Skidmarks on the Amiga (and Mega Drive), Micro Machines from the 16-bit era onwards (with varying degrees of success), to Mashed on the PS2 and (the underrated) Wrecked on the PS3. 

Mantis Burn Racing probably fits in more closely in comparison with Super Sprint and Super Skidmarks in that it is more of a ‘pure’ racer, relying less on aggressive tactics, weapons and more focus on drifting corners, solid driving and shaving seconds off lap-times.

Mantis Burn Racing contains quite a hefty career mode. You initially start off with just a couple of cars and earn money and experience from the races you partake in.  The main game consists of you and up to eight other cars making your way around one of the twelve tracks in the game. The actual tracks themselves contain no power-ups, but only a few occasional shortcuts to help you out. Controls are straightforward, accelerate, brake and a turbo that builds up as you gain charge for it by getting air time and lengthy drifts around corners. 

There are several vehicle classes of light, medium and heavy and the statistics of each alter as you’d expect within each weight class in relation to speed, grip, etc. As you complete races, you can unlock upgrades to your car to improve performance on certain aspects and also use the money to unlock more space for upgrades on cars that you own or on new cars altogether.
The modes that make up the career season (rookie, pro, elite and battle) are filled with different styles of races, time trial, knockout, accumulator and straight-up normal races. These vary only slightly due to the style of the game which is ‘go as fast as you can and finish first’ and so although different in name, they essentially have the same requirement to succeed (although there are ‘side challenges’ such as drift for a certain length of time or destroy a certain amount of barriers). This mode is easily the best part of the game due to its depth and longevity. There are other modes, the usual local multiplayer (up to four cars, always fun) and online play which I personally struggled with as I found it difficult to locate any players online, (which is odd as it’s cross-platform)

The game runs at a solid 60 fps and is as smooth as12-year-old Bourbon, the in-game graphics are relatively plain but crisp and Mantis Burn racing  provides a genuine challenge. The game is all about making your race as smooth as the frame-rate itself, drifting beautifully around corners and timing the boosts to get the most out of the straights. Touching the barriers completely ruins your speed and if you spin out and need to reverse…it’s painfully slow and often you may as well restart the race as you’ll be so far behind.
All of this is fine and dandy, a well-realised formula with enjoyable gameplay on a portable machine.
There are issues which do bring the game down, however. The tracks themselves are very bland. There are only a handful of scenarios, desert, city, snow; the usual suspects and there just isn’t enough variety in them to make them memorable. The city levels especially felt very clinical and similar and the view of my car (the camera can be adjusted to suit your playstyle) was occasionally blocked by buildings and trees, a real oversight in a relatively simple game. Not to be outdone by the blandness of the tracks, the music is also very generic and forgettable. It’s a real shame as the feel, controls and presentation of the game are of such high quality but it is dragged down slightly by the track design.

At £15, Mantis Burn racing is a great portable arcade racing title, ideal for half hour blasts and working through the career mode but it becomes more generic when treated as a big-screen title. Playing on the move is where I found real enjoyment in the game. 

I have given this game an ‘Ice Cool’ rating mainly for this aspect. It has no real rivals due to the genre and what it does, it does well. Local multiplayer is as fun as these games always are and the ‘feel’ of the game really is top-notch, making racing (the most important part)a joy. 

The generic music is forgivable as racing games often tend to have forgettable sound tracks but the real shame here is the track design and lack of variety, however it’s not a deal-breaker and I do recommend Mantis Burn Racing for fans of the genre. Looking at VooFoo’s other titles, this seems like it’s their first IP away from standards such as chess and pool, etc. 

It’s a laudable game and I really look forward to seeing what they include in the sequel that I hope is currently being worked on as the groundwork is already here for an excellent entry to rival the all-time greats of the genre.

Right, I’m off to reverse my way to victory!
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Just Falls Short Of Greatness)

MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

Game Link: Nintendo
Dev Link: VooFoo Studios

Review By Britt

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