There’s something quite nostalgic about overhead racing games. Even if you didn’t really play them growing up, you’d see them in magazines or from friends as they were the only real way to do a proper racing game with the technology of the time. Personally, Micro Machines was quite a memorable part of my childhood and I’m sure many others had the same experience growing up. These days you don’t get too many overhead racers due to developers being able to do more advance things more easily. It’s a genre that’s kind of waned. Mantis Burn Racing is here to bring it back, pulling on your nostalgia strings to scratch that arcade overhead racing itch. But is it any good? Let’s find out.
Mantis Burn Racing is very much an arcade game. With a few different camera angles, over the top or even isometric… you race! The ZR button is accelerate while ZL is break and you may need that since corners are tight. Indeed, drifting is a huge part of the game and you’ll spend much of your time swinging your back end around. For doing nice drifts as well as jumps, you’ll earn points to charge your boost button. You’ll only be able to do this once or twice a lap and the boost is really quite minimal, lasting a second or two.
While there are a lot of multiplayer options in Mantis Burn Racing, many of you will be relieved to hear there is a robust single player campaign to try out. The layout of the single player campaign reminds me of the Sonic Racing Transformed where you move from left to right competing in various events to unlock more events.
The campaign is divided into skill classes. You obviously begin in the lowest novice class and make your way to Pro and then Elite with veteran class along the way. Each class has a few seasons of competition and each of the events are really quite varied. There’re also vehicles specialised to each class. The Rookie class of course has the crappy slow stuff, while elite has you piloting hover cars.
You have your standard race, of course, but then you have time trials, elimination rounds where each lap completed eliminates the last one of the pack, there’s accumulation where as you drive, you continuously earn points, the further up the pack you are, the quicker your points accumulate and the first to reach a set goal wins.
There’s even a separate battle class where you’re fully kitted out with armoured vehicles. This is actually really fun as after the first check point, weapons are enabled and you can go to town on those in front of you, likewise, look out behind you as you may get destroyed by your opponents too. After the first lap you can also drop mines which obviously take out those behind you. If you or your opponent is destroyed then you’ll just respawn after a few seconds. Not a huge deal, but getting back up to full speed can seem like forever and cost you a lot of time.
It’s all well and good so far. The gameplay is solid if unspectacular, there’s loads to do. The problem is there’s not many places to do the stuff on. There’re simply not enough race tracks. You’ll be doing these events on the same tracks or slight variations of over and over again and in all honesty, it gets boring after a while. It’s a big problem for me. I was really enthusiastic when starting to play Mantis Burn Racing, but after an hour I was kind of puffing my cheeks at playing the same tracks over and over again.
It’s not like Mario Kart of Sonic Racing either, where each track is filled with personality and uniqueness. Mantis Burn Racing offers standard, fairly bland tracks in slightly generic locations: cities, desert, snow. It’s really a shame to be honest and is a huge part of me being disappointed in the game.
One neat side of this game is that you can unlock upgrades and add parts to any of your cars to improve their stats. Attaching enough parts will then allow you to level up your vehicle to slightly alter its looks. It’s a nice touch seeing your cars gradually change over time. Parts can be unlocked by earning gears in each event. There are three challenges per event which if completed give you a gear. They may be something as simple as winning, or being airborne for a certain amount of seconds, or even destroying a set amount of things in a track. I like these slightly alternative challenges to be honest and, even if many can be completed just by playing normally, some of them you do need to go out of your way to do.
So, even if the single player may be robust but boring, I think many people will be sold on the online competition, or at least multiplayer. Online seems fairly basic, you can create lobbies and set the rules yourself or join random lobbies online. With online cross play, you can play with people on different systems and I found it fairly easy to join people online.
You can play split screen multiplayer as well as joining systems together for local wireless which is a nice option to have. I think Mantis Burn Racing is definitely better as a multiplayer experience than a single player one.
I think the presentation is slightly unwelcoming. You’re dropped straight into a rather underwhelming menu, small in size and shifted off into a corner, it doesn’t give any sort of personality. There’s nothing inviting about the game which is sad. The graphics look okay although are on the more basic side of things but that’s not a problem since the gameplay is okay.
Overall, Mantis Burn Racing is a solid if unspectacular overhead racing game. It has a meaty single player campaign that’s sadly thrill free but there are also plenty of local and online multiplayer stuff to keep you going. It may scratch an itch for a certain audience but others may find it a little too underwhelming. Playing the same slightly dull tracks over and over again may be a killer for some, and it did suck the fun out of it for me personally. It’s a nice opportunity for a different kind of racing game online, though, if you’re tired of Mario Kart but it’s nowhere near that standard in terms of quality or presentation.
Game provided by VooFoo Studios