Shaun Munro reviews Mantis Burn Racing on Nintendo Switch…
Though this past summer’s Micro Machines World Series ended up being a disappointing bust, VooFoo Studios will help fill that void with the stylistically similar – if decidedly less eccentric – Mantis Burn Racing. While ultimately a little too piecemeal to approach greatness, its simple yet addictive gameplay makes for another rousing racing title on the Nintendo Switch.
For the most part, this is your typical, garden variety top-down racer, with races unfolding over rocky terrain that encourages players to fly over death-defying jumps, find sneaky shortcuts and take advantage of a boost that gradually builds over the course of the race.
What differentiates Mantis Burn Racing somewhat from its genre brethren, however, is its central drifting mechanic, the mastering of which is an absolute necessity for consistently winning races. By skilfully drifting around corners with as little margin for error as possible, you’ll manage to take first place and confidently keep it, but calculating a corner incorrectly will result in a nasty collision and likely being overtaken by your tenacious AI opponents.
The meat of the game is its Career mode, a suite packed with almost a dozen different seasons of events, featuring races, time trials, knockout events, and my personal favourite, Accumulator, where you gain more points the higher position you are in the race, which can lead to some staggeringly close finishes.
The central gameplay loop of gaining experience and acquiring cogs, which can be used to purchase new cars and upgrades, is surprisingly comprehensive and addictive. However, it has to be said that, overall, Career mode is best jumped into when you have a spare 20 or 30 minutes, because over long play sessions it does begin to feel rather repetitive, mainly because the map variety just isn’t there.
On the single player side, the show-stealer is the game’s Battle mode, which was DLC in the original game’s release and is curiously tucked right at the back of the Career mode menu, such that it can easily be missed. Here you race against other players while firing machine guns and dropping mines at will, and given how likely you are to die (it’s a lot), the tide of the race can change at a moment’s notice.
The gemstone in the game’s crown, though, is the online multiplayer offering, allowing up to 8 players to race together over a dozen different race types. It goes without saying that human opponents are almost always going to be more engaging than the CPU, and that’s certainly true here. Thankfully, there’s cross-play support with other platforms, meaning you can generally find at least one other player to race against without needing to wait too long, but filling up a lobby can admittedly take a little while. Plus, if matchmaking isn’t instant on launch, it’s probably going to be pretty painful by the time 2018 rolls around.
There’s also plenty of local multiplayer support with four-player local split-screen, though beware that Joy-Con users will probably find the controller’s small buttons pretty fiddly and, after a time, quite uncomfortable when playing this game. Speaking of which, the game does also have motion control support, but given the finicky nature of navigating some of these drifts, I found it decidedly more difficult and, ultimately, more frustrating than it’s worth.
Visually, Mantis Burn Racing aims to ape the tabletop aesthetic of Micro Machines and does a mostly splendid job, even with its more reined-in, stripped-down personality. It has to be said, though, that a greater array of camera options wouldn’t go amiss, namely the ability to rotate the camera with the right analog stick.
Though the cheap-looking menu text and images don’t invite great expectations from the outset, the vehicles and tracks meanwhile look rock solid, and most importantly, the game runs at a silky smooth 60fps in both TV and handheld mode the vast majority of the time. The soundtrack is completely forgettable (aside from annoyingly repetitive menu music you won’t be able to shake), but the car sound effects are decent enough, if lacking diversity between vehicles perhaps.
A fun little racer that compliments its simple mechanics with a better-than-expected progression system, Mantis Burn Racing again affirms the Switch as a beaming haven for indie racers far away from the Gran Tursimos, Forzas and Project Cars of the gaming world. It knows what it is and delivers accordingly, even if it hardly touts the personality and engrossing quality of, say, Mario Kart, or indeed the Micro Machines franchise it evidently owes so much to.
+ Fast, fun gameplay recalls Micro Machines.
+ Slick visuals.
+ Comprehensive single-player mode and progression system.
+ Fun multiplayer, when you can find a match.
– Career mode gets rather repetitive.
– Map variety is a little lacking.
– More camera options would be great.
– Forgettable soundtrack.
Reviewed for Nintendo Switch (also available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One)
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more video game rambling.