There’s been somewhat of a resurgence in top down arcade racing games lately, Mantis Burn Racing is the latest title to target the thoroughly 90s niche. I had a chance to play the title at a convention only a few months ago. I thought the title had promise but I felt unsure on its long-term appeal. Mantis Burn Racing is comprised of three basic modes, career, split screen multiplayer and online multiplayer. The bulk of your playtime will undoubtedly be spent on the career mode, so let’s start there.
Mantis Burn Racing has a surprisingly deep career mode; instead of your usual array of race events mapped out on a single route, the game instead presents a multi-branching map that gives players a certain level of choice. These are broken up into 3 different classes, of which also have three maps – each one growing incrementally in size and difficulty. The different branches on the map reward players with upgrades for their cars, rewarding those who put a little bit of extra effort in.
The end of each area is locked off until players earn enough gears, these are collected through winning races and passing in-race challenges. This works as an excellent way of making each race a little bit more varied, forcing players to potentially adapt their race style. The challenges can be anything from not using your boost to performing a certain amount of drifting per race.
One of the most important things in any racing game is how the driving handles. Fortunately, this is something Voofoo Studios have put at the forefront of development, as a result of this, the game handles excellently. The cars are responsive and feel easy to throw around the track, with a little bit of practise you can drift full speed into corners. The game has excellently designed tracks that reward players for following the racing line, stick to the inside of corners and you’ll often come out ahead of your opponents. I really applaud the choice not to include weapons, it’s something a lot of people would likely associate with a title like Mantis Burn Racing. The fact they aren’t included, shows how much the developers wanted to build a pure racing experience.
There’s a few different classes of vehicles to choose from, while mostly aesthetic, there are a few different changes. The heavier vehicles allow players to drive through shortcuts that are normally blocked by barriers. Smaller vehicles offer more control through corners, but the differences are mostly negligible – Especially when you take upgrades into account.
Track variety is a little lacking for me, there doesn’t ever seem to be enough to distinguish each track apart, the environments change slightly but the track layouts are never really that imaginative. I’d have loved to see more verticality within the tracks, or something a little different to help break up the monotony of longer sessions.
I had some real issues getting to grips with the camera positioning to begin with. I suffer with motion sickness, so I found myself feeling a bit queasy at how the camera tracks the car movements. There is an alternative option that keeps the camera more static but this often makes distinguishing your car among the crowd, much harder. I eventually managed to adapt to the camera, but this could be something that causes issues for other players.
The split screen multiplayer is a good laugh, I managed to rope a younger sibling into racing a few rounds with me. It’s a nice throwback to a time when you and your pals would all huddle around, purposely trying to put one another off in order to gain an advantage. There is also online multiplayer, but whenever I tried to play it there doesn’t seem to be anyone else online.
Mantis Burn Racing is an excellent example of a passion project, a love letter to a genre of games created out of necessity. Instead of creating the bare minimum, it feels like Voofoo Studios have tried to pay homage to the classic titles in the genre whilst creating a modern experience. It’s a little rough in places, but overall, Mantis Burn Racing is a solid experience and an excellent choice for couch multiplayer.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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