Review – Circuit Superstars (PS4)

The occasional release by Square Enix’s Collective label is always worth giving a shot. The company might be known for their bagillion JRPGs and Eidos-penned Western titles, but every now and then, they grace us with a little indie that, more often than not, puts a smile on our faces, like The Turing Test or Interrogation. When I first heard of Circuit Superstars, I knew I had to give it a shot. A top-down racer inspired by the likes of Micro Machines? One that features some slight nods to the (former) best motoring show of all time, Top Gear? Well, sign me the hell up!

Circuit Superstars

Looks like Micro Machines, feels like something completely different.

Circuit Superstars takes the top-down perspective gameplay from Micro Machines and the underrated Neo Geo gem Neo Drift Out and adds a healthy dose of “love letter to motor racing and car culture” on top of it. It mixes low-poly graphics with neat lighting effects and textures to make these recreations of famous cars, such as the Abarth 500 and the Lotus Seven, look adorable onscreen. It offers players a neat career mode, with each circuit being focused around a specific car category. Hell, it even features the famous Top Gear Test Track, allowing you to post your lap time against the whole world, including some real-life drivers and celebs!

In terms of content and presentation, this is fine and dandy. Nothing too fantastic, with decent visuals and a synth-heavy soundtrack that feels like a perfect fit for the kind of game offered, but also far from terrible. It checks all the boxes. The same can be said about the amount of tracks and cars at your disposal. It’s all… good. Here’s the thing, though. The game presents itself as an arcade racer, a “pick up and play” experience, but this is where my main gripe with Circuit Superstars resides: it’s just not.

Circuit Superstars Top Gear

The Top Gear test track.

For a game inspired by wacky arcade racers, Circuit Superstars is a bit too… serious. By that I mean that its physics aren’t loose or forgiving. They are more akin to a racing sim than Micro Machines. If you drive out of the tarmac, you get punished. If you use a wall as a crutch, you get punished. This is the kind of game that forces you to rethink how to play it, since its gameplay basically mandates you to learn how to properly brake before a sharp turn, and how to drive properly as if you were playing Gran Turismo or F1. This is not an issue per se, as there’s nothing wrong with the gameplay, but considering it tries to sell itself as a wacky and accessible racer, these mechanics stand out like a sore thumb.

Circuit Superstars Truck

A truck against a Porsche and other sports cars? Sounds fair enough.

Know what you’re getting into before deciding to tackle Circuit Superstars. It’s not a bad game at all, and it’s really fun at times, but it’s neither a retro arcade racer or a simple “pick up and play experience”. It might look like Micro Machines, but it lacks the simplified physics and overall zaniness from that series. As it stands, Circuit Superstars is a game that requires a bit more from your average arcade racing player, but once you get used to its gameplay, you’ll be greeted with a pretty fun and refreshing experience.

Graphics: 7.0

It might not have the uber-artistic feel seen in Art of Rally, but I really liked its mixture of low-poly and highly detailed textures. It’s a visually pleasing game, that’s for certain.

Gameplay: 7.0

It might control like Micro Machines, but its physics are more akin to a realistic racing sim. You’ll need some time before getting fully accustomed to this gameplay loop.

Sound: 7.0

Synth tunes that fit in perfectly with the kind of gameplay offered in Circuit Superstars. Nothing exactly mindblowing, but it gets the job done.

Fun Factor: 7.0

It is an arcade racer at heart, but it plays and feels a bit more like a complex racing game that requires way more dedication from you than it should have. It doesn’t result in a bad game, as its career mode is excellent, but it lacks the “pick up and play” pzazz its sources of inspiration had in bunches.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Circuit Superstars is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Circuit Superstars was provided by the publisher.