It’s been ages since last we had a top-down racer that we can compare to greats such as Micro Machines, Circuit Breakers and Mashed. These top-down racers just don’t come around all that often, and those that have since haven’t set the world on fire as it did in the past. Mantis Burn Racing gets very close to doing that but needs one or two additions or tweaks to get that top spot.
Mantis Burn Racing impresses right away with its career mode structure. There is really quite a bit to sink your fat tyres into. You’ll have some dodgy-looking mechanic taking you through a very basic tutorial, but it really comes down to you testing it all yourself. Career consists of three Rookie, Pro and Veteran seasons, followed by an Elite season as well as a Battle season. You don’t have access to it all right away as you systematically make your way through the various events, starting with the Rookie season of course.
It’s filled with single-player content that’ll last you for a very long time.
Events consist of races, endurance races, timeout (pass checkpoints to gain extra time), knockout ( the last player to cross the finish line drops out the race), spotlight, accumulator (earn points faster by staying ahead of the pack), overtake, time trial and hot lap. Move on to the battle events and you can add king of the track and survival to the mix. It’s filled with single-player content that’ll last you for a very long time. That’s just a quick look at what you have on the surface of the career mode. It gets much more involved and ultimately fun.
You’re only as good as your car
A set of three cars are assigned to each season. For example, you can’t take your much improved Pro class vehicles to destroy the competition in a Rookie season. These three cars are made up of an off-road vehicle that comes with a great suspension and grip, an on-road car with impressive speed and drifting abilities and a truck that is tougher to steer but gains impressive speed thanks to sheer weight and size that can quite literally barge the competition out the way. Each class comes with an improved version of each car type until you ultimately get to the elite class that has hover vehicles. It’s completely bonkers and actually plays well. As you make your way through the season you’ll unlock car parts as well as credits named G (I like to think that it’s Gil). These various parts will improve speed, acceleration, grip, suspension and boost, but you can’t just attach it to cars without any thought. Some parts will instead drop the specs of your car if you attempt to fit it into the wrong car. It’s up to you as a player to test what works best. Fill up all the part slots available and you’ll have to pay some hard-earned G to level your vehicles up to unlock improved specs as well as extra car part slots.
There is another currency you’ll be after in career mode – gears. Gears are used to progress to the next season. Get to the last race in the season without enough gears and you’ll have to go hunting for gears you might have missed along the way. Win a race and you’re automatically be rewarded with three of the six gears on offer for every event. The three remaining gears are awarded to you if you complete objectives in an event. Drive clean sectors, complete the race in a certain time, win without using a shortcut, smash no trackside objects, make no contact with any vehicle and many more challenges will reward you with those additional gears. Let’s talk about the racing itself.
The biggest drawback to all the action is, unfortunately, the number of tracks.
It’s an enormous amount of fun. You’ll be tearing up the track by bashing through barricades to create a shortcut. Miss the shortcut and you’ll find the opposition flying past you. As you draft, drift and get your vehicle airborne you’ll earn XP that gradually fills your boost. Once filled a press of the A button will unleash your nitrous and could be the difference between you winning and losing a race. Move on to battle races and you’ll have a turret mounted to your car as well as the ability to drop mines to cause all forms of chaos. It can get a little chaotic, but that’s what the game is all about. The biggest drawback to all the action is, unfortunately, the number of tracks. In total, as well the DLC included in the Switch version, you’ll get to shred your car around 12 tracks. By the time you get midway into career mode it gets a little tiresome driving the same track over and over again. There is a silver lining to this repetition. You get to know these tracks very well, and once you take it online you have a bunch of players who are all very competitive.
Sharing is caring
I had no issue finding up to eight players in a race online due to one very important inclusion. Thanks to Nintendo and Microsoft playing well together you can cross-play the game online with people on the Xbox One and PC. Switch players are marked with the Switch logo, while other format players have no symbol next to their names. It worked without a hitch and is probably some of my best online racing I’ve experienced in a long time. Offline multiplayer supports up to four players and will see the frame rate drop down to 30FPS, but it’s locked. I tried a three-player offline game and the screen split into three vertical columns and, to my surprise, played much better than I had anticipated. Should you only find yourself with a second player, and let’s be honest, the Switch lends itself very well to that, you can take your friend on in a head-to-head race where you view the action from opposites ends of the Switch screen (Head to 1:15 in the below video to see an example of it in action).
There is so much content to enjoy in the game. When you’re not busy with single-player or multiplayer racing you can take a shot at the weekly challenge that has you fighting for the best scores or times against the rest of the world (including other format players). Where Mantis Burn Racing can improve is the soundtrack. It gets annoying after a while and I actually turned it right down after a few hours of play. The engine sounds are also nothing too spectacular at all. Each car sounds the same, which means there is this constant drone of similar engine sounds.
If you’ve been holding out for a fun top-down racing game of yore then Mantis Burn Racing is going to fill that spot for you. If the developers can squeeze a few more tracks into the game it’ll become a classic worth burning your money on.