One thing that has been abundantly clear this year is that the Nintendo Switch is the first system from the Big N to allow for easy development and porting from other systems. Indie developers have flocked to the hybrid and many have touted the simplicity of bringing their games to a wider audience. This has helped create one of the most robust libraries ever seen on a new console. Think about it, the Switch is barely nine months old and it has over 250 games already available for it. That averages out to about one new game every single day it’s been on store shelves!
Because of the wide swath of developers, pretty much every single genre has been represented on the Switch, including racing games – whether you’re itching for futuristic hovercraft action with FAST RMX or realistic simulators like Gear.Club Unlimited – you’re covered. But, what about the super niche audience craving the overhead games such as Micro Machines, R.C. Pro-Am, and Super Off-Road Racing of yesteryear? Well, you’re in luck! Mantis Burn Racing is here to service your needs.
Let’s cut right to the chase, Mantis Burn Racing really managed to surprise me with its depth of challenges, vehicle customization, and modes of play. When you first begin your game you’ll most likely want to dive right into the single player campaign. Here you are presented with a flow chart of sorts that lays out various races and challenges and connects them via lines. As you successfully complete the nodes, you’ll move onto the next and sometimes you’ll have points that split off so you can choose which event to participate in next. Sometimes there is an item sitting in the middle of a set of challenges and you’ll win that item by completing the squares around it. I absolutely love the way the game progression works, especially since sometimes when I failed at one challenge I could still move onto a different path and try something else for a while.
You will come across different types of racing events as you play the game. Regular races will usually have you compete to finish first across three laps. Other events will switch up the rules. Time Trial has you competing against your best time. Seasons have you race a specific number of races (think Mario Kart Cups) to earn the top spot. Other modes like Accumulator will have you constantly earning points as you race. You earn more points the higher up in the rankings you are, so your goal should be to get into first as quickly as possible and keep that position. The first to reach the goal point score wins. Yet another round is called Knockout, where each lap whoever is in last place is knocked out of the race. This one can get real intense if you’re pulling up the rear! There are even more racing styles, but they’re fun to discover and unlock on your own, so I won’t be the one to spoil them.
Playing the game feels natural. The game is viewed from a top-down perspective, like some of the classic games I mentioned earlier. You earn points while racing by pulling off drifts, catching air, and other stunts. Once you’ve accumulated enough points you’ll hear a chime, signaling your boost is ready. You’ll want to engage those nitros at just the right moment to pull ahead in the race. There are also challenges set forth in each race and if you meet the criteria you’ll earn special Gears. These can be used to unlock new nodes on the map screen to try new events. You also earn money based on your performance and this can be used in the Garage to customize your cars. Each vehicle will have a select number of slots that can contain special upgrades, which will enhance their stats (like acceleration and top speed). While this is nowhere close to being as detailed as a racing simulator like Forza, it’s more involved than many racers of this type and a welcome addition.
There are plenty of ways to race multiplayer. You can play up to four players on a single system in split-screen mode. You can also go online for 8-player races or do the same locally via wireless racing. The game can work with just one Joy-Con per person and this is more than adequate since the game doesn’t require a second analog stick for anything. Cross-platform play is enabled for online races so you can go up against Xbox One or PC players – which should help make finding matches easier.
Visually the game looks pretty darn good. The developers say it runs at 60fps in docked and portable modes, and my eyes tell me that they’re probably right. I didn’t ever notice any major slowdown or other graphical hiccups and the game offers up several viewpoints and variations on static or dynamic cameras so you can hopefully find one to your liking. I just left the default settings on and it all clicked just fine for me. This is one of those games where it might take a few minutes to get into the groove, especially since the viewpoint is different from most racing games. However, once you do get into that zone, it all flows beautifully and works great. I will say the game could use a little more variety in the tracks – there are a lot of muted colors here. Still, it’s nice that Switch owners get all of the DLC included with the game; so later in the game you’ll even get to race in the snow.
The music and sound effects are the weakest link in the entire package. Some of the music is fine, but most of it is very forgettable and doesn’t add anything to the game. I know this is a budget game ($19.99) so I didn’t expect an awesome radio station or something, but it could definitely have more exciting tunes to go along with the racing. The sound effects are pretty muffled and engines barely make any noises whatsoever. It just lack any impact, even when you turbo.
There’s a lot to like in Mantis Burn Racing. The amount of events to complete is staggering and they’re all pretty fun to mess around with. The number of tracks is on the light side, but the game does keep things interesting by reversing the courses and keeping you on your toes with various modes of play. While I didn’t have a chance to play too much multiplayer, I can vouch for that the solo experience is very fun and the races (for the most part) can be completed in a manner of minutes, making this a great game to play in short bursts while on the go in portable mode. Little touches like showing the leaderboards and the fastest times on each race is welcomed as well. This won’t set the world on fire with innovative gameplay, but it does a solid job of delivering a fun top-down racing experience on the Switch!
Mantis Burn Racing was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.