It was released a few months ago for other systems, but Circuit Superstars has finally landed on PlayStation as well – we fired up the game and took it for a spin. Here’s our review of the game, which was developed by Original Fire Games for Square Enix.
A game that looks like a cross between Micro Machines and 2012’s F1 Race Stars certainly isn’t what we usually expect from a publisher like Square Enix, so we were surprised when we saw the announcement video and screenshots for Circuit Superstars. At the same time, we couldn’t wait to play it, because we love classic overhead racers and this seemed to tick all the right boxes: four player local split screen support, a fun colorful aesthetic and a bunch of different cars and tracks to play with.
Surprisingly, the way that cars handle in Circuit Superstars is quite different from the more casual, immediately accessible games that it visually resembles. As with a game like Art of Rally, cars feel like they have real weight to them, as opposed to little miniature vehicles that you can just trash around the track. That somewhat unexpected realism also extends to how a typical race unfolds. Before long, you’ll leave the track, or you’ll catch part of the wall on a corner – and you’ll get penalties for doing so, forcing your car to slow down for a few seconds or adding time to your current lap. That matters, because having the fastest lap means an extra championship point in any kind of multi-race game.
The learning curve is a pleasant one though, as you’ll learn when to ease off the gas and how to lean into corners within a few minutes. You’ll also quickly learn that pit stops are part of your strategy – ones where you take an alternate route close to the finish line where you stop with your crew, repairing damage to your car and tyres if you need it. You’ll be faster after you visit the pit, but doing so also means you lose a few seconds because of your stop. And if you were thinking about taking the pit lane to try and overtake – the game adheres to the speed limit in pit lanes too, automatically slowing you down when you enter.
Circuit Superstars walks the fine line between fun and accessible racer and more sim-like elements, where a drift around a corner feels rewarding and a crash feels like it has longer lasting implications than just the two seconds you lose. After all, you’ll have to stop and repair the damage, or you might not be able to keep up the pace in the last two laps.
The game has other things going for it as well, such as the fact that you don’t have to unlock its wealth of content gradually over time – everything’s there right away, and you can engage with cup tournaments or single races against other players and/or the AI. The racing is also kept nice and clear, with lapped cars turning into ghosts so they don’t mess with the duel at the front. It may be a real change of pace from the usual overhead racer, which often has turbo boosts and weapons as well, but it’s a fresh experience because of it.