One of the first racing games I remember playing is Micro Machines on the N64. I spent hours playing that brilliant top down racer. Despite the arguments caused due to numerous collisions resulting in someone falling in the sink or off the table, I have such fond memories of it. Micro Machines style of top-down racing really went out of fashion as systems got more powerful and were able to display fully three-dimensional worlds. Mantis Burn Racing brings this genre back with somewhat mixed results.
Like any racing game worth its salt, the game has a fairly standard career mode as well as offering both local and online multiplayer. Unlike most racing games, the choice of cars is extremely limited. There are only three types of car (light, medium, and heavy) for each level of racing (rookie, pro, and veteran) making a total of nine cars. There is a progression system for each car where you unlock upgrades to be added to your cars, which does add some variety but I don’t think this does enough to excuse the lack of variety.
Visually the game has some good points and bad points. The frame rate is fine with the game playing nice and smoothly without any stutters. The environments look fantastic with trees, buildings, dirt, and rocks looking brilliant. There are also some nice particle effects where the cars throw up dust when racing off-road. In fact, all of the graphics look nice, apart from the cars. The cars lack texture or reflections and generally look a little flat and bland. It’s not the design of the vehicles themselves, just the way that they sit in the world.
The audio is also a bit of a mixed bag. The engines of the cars sound OK, and the sounds of the different surfaces that you are racing on are passable. The music is incredibly repetitive, though. It’s not that the music is particularly offensive, anything but, however when you have a 2-3 minute piece of music played continually throughout a 15+ hour game it gets exceedingly tedious. I’m very thankful that the console update allowing background music has been made available.
Thankfully the handling of the cars feels pretty good. The light cars are able to drift like you’re playing Ridge Racer. The medium cars have a fairly nice balance of sliding and grip. The heavy vehicles will smash anything out of their way but are almost impossible to drift. Unfortunately all this balanced handling is let down by races that are just far too easy. The only time I ever struggled in a race was when I was trying to also complete all of the side objectives at once. There are 3 rookie leagues, 3 pro leagues, but only 1 veteran league. I would have loved there to have been some really challenging races at the end, but it was all too simple.
Mantis Burn Racing has such potential, but it never really pulls it off. The handling of the cars and the progression systems are nice. The environments look great and the tracks themselves are well designed. It’s just a shame that the cars are the weak point of this game. In games like Forza and Need for Speed the cars are the stars of the show, and this is something that Mantis Burn Racing could learn from. As it is, the game feels fun in short bursts but lacks any sense of challenge.