The overhead racing genre is something that was basically killed with the advent of 3D graphics way back in the 90’s, with Micro Machines as the sole remnant franchise that still managed to release a new game every now and then. The year of 2017 saw the release of Micro Machines World Series, the first game in the franchise in over a decade, which turned out to be one of the most disappointing games of the year. Maybe the overhead racing genre was never good to begin with? British developer VooFoo Studios begs to differ with the Switch release of Mantis Burn Racing, one of the most entertaining racing games for the system so far.
Mantis Burn Racing plays like a typical game from the genre. Instead of focusing on realistic gameplay, the game focuses on a more arcade-like approach, with less realistic physics, emphasis on performing stunts in order to fill up a boost meter, and, depending on the car, using weaponry to destroy your opponents. On paper, it’s the same as World Series. The reality, however, is completely different, and for the better.
While World Series featured an incredibly slippery and imprecise gameplay, Mantis Burn Racing features excellent controller responsiveness. Drifting is easy and actually fun to perform. The camera isn’t static like in other overhead racers, always leaving your car in the center of the screen, making corners even easier to perform. Besides the initial couple of minutes you’ll need to learn the controls, I have next to nothing to complain about this aspect of the game.
Another great aspect of the game is its lengthy career mode, which features a lot of types of races, exclusive challenges for each leg of the championship, as well as a simple but rewarding progression system, including the possibility to constantly upgrade your vehicle, both visually and mechanically, as well as the possibility to keep on buying new rides, all depending on how many medals you acquire. No lootboxes or DLC are present, thank goodness. It’s all up to your skill.
But like literally every other game in existence, Mantis Burn Racing has its fair share of flaws.
First of all, there’s the issue with the level of variety among its racetracks. While the game features an okay-at-best amount of tracks per se (not mindblowing, but okay for the pricetag), the visual variety in these levels isn’t great, as they’re basically either in the mountains or in the city. That also affects the overall graphics, as the game is too, let’s say, “brown.” Even the city levels feature lots of dirt tracks, making the visuals even more repetitive. Given the lengthy campaign mode the game provides, you’ll constantly play the same tracks over and over again, and it does get tiresome after a while.
The other main issue lies on the sound department as a whole. The game’s soundtrack isn’t anything special, be it when racing or when you’re exploring the menus. Besides this, the sound mixing is also flawed. When you’re racing, the engine noises are so loud you can barely listen to the songs.
Despite a few hiccups here and there, especially with the sound department and the overall uninteresting amount of racetracks, I have to admit that I liked Mantis Burn Racing even more than I expected. It’s a good racing game with excellent controls and an overall design that is perfectly suited for a handheld. I doubt I would have liked it as much as I did had I played it elsewhere. After the severe disappointment that was this year’s Micro Machines revival, I’m glad to see other people are still making decent titles for the overhead racing genre.
Also available on: PS4, PC, Xbox One.
Copy of Mantis Burn Racing provided by publisher.