Burn baby burn, Mantis inferno!
Over the years I have always been a huge fan of top down racing games, especially ones that offer a multiplayer experience. Ever since I first clasped my eyes on a three-player Super Sprint cabinet on holiday I have been hooked. Through games like Super Off Road, Power Drive, Micro Machines, Super Cars and last generation’s Bang Bang Racing, the genre has been a staple of my gaming life. So I was pretty excited to see the announcement of VooFoo Studios’ Mantis Burn Racing, a title that finally promises to bring some decent top down racing action to the new generation (let’s just ignore the awful Super Off Road remake). Mantis Burn Racing promises a hugely engaging experience in both single player and online multiplayer modes, so let’s see if it lives up to the bold promises.
Mantis Burn Racing is a pretty traditional top down racer; you have single player modes, both online and local split screen multiplayer modes, challenges and all sorts of upgrades and DLC. You really can play this game however you like and the sheer amount of content available means that you are certainly going to get lots of life out of this. To start with, the only real flaw that seems to be apparent in Mantis Burn Racing is that it doesn’t have any real vehicles. While this is a shame, you can certainly understand why when this is a download-only game from an indie studio. Maybe this is something we can hope for in a sequel if we get one. The first real positive in Mantis Burn Racing is that it’s instantly accessible; you can literally just click a button a few times and get racing. It also introduces you to all the game mechanics quite nicely from using handbrake turns to negotiate tough corners to hitting the limited nitros to take you through the straits. But I was interested to see that Mantis Burn Racing doesn’t take the route that so many racers do these days of giving you stupidly easy races to start with to make you think you are better than you are – there is a challenge from day one!
I started my journey on Mantis Burn Racing with the single player career mode. Here you are given a basic car and must win races and challenges in order to buy upgrades and new vehicles. By reaching set XP targets you unlock new races, new cars and new challenges. Like many games these days this does take a little grinding and you will need to the same race more than once sometimes in order to reach the required target. This isn’t nearly as annoying as you might think though as it does help you learn the courses and perfect your skills. Career mode also offers up a great deal of customisation as though who are technically inclined can literally spend hours in the virtual garage tweaking and tuning your vehicle. But don’t let that put you off either, as those who prefer a more arcade-like experience (me, me, me!) can just chose their favourite colour, select the recommended settings and get on with it! As well as standard beat the competition races there are also time trials, accumulators and knockouts to keep things interesting. Mantis Burn Racing career mode certainly offers a decent challenge and provides enough content to keep you at it for a while. The developers have also promised that more and more content will be added over time via DLC.
Probably the best mode in Mantis Burn Racing for those who are old school gamers like myself is the split screen multiplayer option. This supports up to four players at once so you can gather round the TV with a few of your friends and battle it out to the finish for bragging rights. But if you don’t have any mates then don’t worry, there is also the online multiplayer mode which supports up to eight people at once. There really is something in Mantis Burn Racing to suit everyone, as long as you like racing games that is! Another feature that you would probably expect when it comes to bragging rights is online leaderboards, where Mantis Burn Racing lets you compare your skills with the best in the world and your own group of friends. As usual, there are also a more than plentiful amount of achievements to unlock for those who are constantly chasing their gamer score.
Initially Mantis Burn Racing doesn’t really look to be pushing any real boundaries in the visuals department, but take a closer look and you will start to see some really nice little touches. I particularly liked the amount of depth they added to the terrain. When you race alongside a cliff edge, you really do become scared to fall off! Mantis Burn Racing definitely looks the part while still keeping an old school flavour about it. VooFoo should also be commended for the audio: a perfectly fitting ambient-electro styled soundtrack funks things up behind the scenes to keep your adrenaline levels pumped. One thing that can often break these types of games are either over-complicated or over-sensitive controls, so you will also be pleased to hear that Mantis Burn Racing nails those too. The game responds beautifully to your every touch and is almost perfectly weighted. It’s clear from the moment you start playing Mantis Burn Racing that the developers put tremendous care and attention into not only getting this game just right, but also paying homage to the similar titles that came before it. I can’t help but recommend Mantis Burn Racing to anyone out there with a penchant for racing games. It’s probably one of the best download-only games to grace the Xbox One Store since its inception.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PC; Publisher: VooFoo Studios ; Developer: VooFoo Studios ; Players: 1-8 ; Released: 12/10/2016 ; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP: $14.99 / £11.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a personal copy of Mantis Burn Racing purchased by the reviewer.