The excellent Mantis Burn Racing is available now for PS4, Xbox One and PC – and it’s a must-have for fans of top-down racers.
I’ll readily admit that I’m one of them. I started playing top-down racers back in the eighties with Super Sprint, and enjoyed the heck out of games like Super Cars and Nitro on the Atari ST in the early nineties as well. They were different from Super Sprint, Badlands and Iron Man Off-Road in that tracks weren’t restricted to a single screen anymore – technology had allowed scrolling, which made for bigger and more interesting tracks.
After 3D Realms’ successful Death Rally and the first Micro Machines games, the next step for the genre was 3D, although as a genre it was losing some of its popularity. Nevertheless – I never stopped playing them, and was delighted when I first laid eyes on Mantis Burn Racing. This happened during the summer, when visiting the UKIE (United Kingdom Interactive Entertainment) stand at Gamescom. At a small stand, developer VooFoo was showing off a build of their game – and it was one of the few games during the show that I instantly enjoyed without needing a lot of information up front.
It’s exactly that type of ‘easy to pick up’ gameplay that’s always made top-down racers fun, and Mantis Burn Racing is no different. That doesn’t mean this is an easy game though, as mastering your turns and drifts will certainly take time. Having said that – top-down racings veterans will feel at home instantly, and Mantis Burn Racing is an homage to those games that went before it.
Race modes include the classic ‘first to complete x laps’ type, but also things like time attacks and elimination races, where the last car in the race gets knocked one at each interval and you have to be the last man standing. The backdrops for your races don’t vary much – you’re either racing on dirt (like in that Gamescom demo) or in a city. There is still a good variation of tracks, but we wish Mantis Burn Racing had some more diverse surfaces to race on – perhaps something for future updates.
Another genre staple is how career modes work – getting results lands you points, which you can spend on upgrades to be more competitive in later races. It’s been that way for over 25 years and it still works great in Mantis Burn Racing. It’s a mechanic that pushes the game forward and keeps things interesting for a long time, despite the lack of diversity in backdrops.
Our only gripes with the game so far have been the aforementioned lack of track diversity. Gameplay is rock solid and refined – the developers clearly being fans of the genre themselves. Visually, it’s one of the best top-down racers I’ve ever played and of course the genre lends itself really well to smaller studios who don’t have the budget or resources to produce the next Project Cars or Forza title.
If you’re nostalgic for a simpler type of racing experience, then look no further. It doesn’t revolutionize and could even be called generic, but it should also be called refined. This is a retro-inspired racing game that’s certain to provide hours of entertainment, both in single and multiplayer – local multiplayer especially!