Looking back at the games I played this year, one of the bigger disappointments I came across was Micro Machines: World Series. The game had a lot of potential, especially considering how well previous entries have fared, but this one just felt wayyyy off. The reliance of having to go online to find opponents, along with sluggish controls and somewhat poor control design, sent this series scaling back instead of moving forward – and that’s not what racing is all about.
Which is why I’m happy to see a game like VooFoo’s Mantis Burn Racing. Here’s a game that’s built on sheer simplicity, with a control scheme that’s easy to get into and graphics that don’t go overboard, but remind you of racing games from the past. It feels like the spiritual successor to Micro Machines, even if it doesn’t feature tiny little cars. Arcade racing enthusiasts will find a lot to like here.
First off, the controls couldn’t be easier on the Switch. You basically accelerate with the right trigger, decrease your speed with the left trigger (though you won’t need it too often, not even for drifts) and steer with the analog stick. That’s really about all you need, save for some driving skill when it comes to attaining first place victories.
The racing can take some getting used to, especially if you’re spoiled by the superior Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. But by a few laps in, you should get what it’s all about, and eventually make your way up the circuits, bumping up from rookie to pro to veteran difficulty and scoring enough wins to stock up on XP and G (currency) to buy new cars and other goods to make your vehicles run better.
But there are different ways you can upgrade your vehicle. Boosting your acceleration might seem like a good idea, but you also need to balance out stuff like grip and suspension so you don’t go flying off the road. The system put into place here is well thought out, and you actually feel the differences put in place with your decisions. It’s a system that grows with your play, instead of making you struggle to discover it.
The circuits offer a lot of variety in the terrain, even though you see it all from a distant top-down perspective. It still looks beautiful, though, and there’s a ton to dig into, including side challenges that will truly test your driving nerve. The only time the graphics suffer any kind of setback is with multiplayer, which we’ll get to in a second.
I was hoping for more choices in the musical category, but what’s here is decent racing fare, if not entirely memorable. The cars sound great, too, offering a little bit of difference with each model.
Along with the campaign and a mode for those that truly know their stuff on the road (via the “Elite”), Mantis Burn Racing also has some excellent multiplayer options. You can actually race up to eight players in wireless, as well as four players in split-screen. Things can get a little cramped with four players this way, since the distant view makes it difficult to see some turns. But we won’t lie, it’s a lot of fun going up against others. There’s also a neat two player handheld mode, with the screen cut in half like an old-school arcade cabinet, with players racing up towards the screen. The control method is tiny, but this mode definitely has some promise.
There’s online play as well, though from the sessions we tried out, there isn’t too massive an audience for this game yet. Still, for the races we took part in, there was a good amount of fun to be had. And the daily challenges are worth digging into as well, especially as you become more accustomed to the game.
While Mantis Burn Racing isn’t about reinventing the wheel, it still handles it very well. It’s an arcade racer that sticks to its arcade roots, instead of trying to overcomplicate things. With that in mind, it doesn’t wear out its welcome, and has something to offer for single players and multiplayer parties alike. I do hope online fills up more, but, as it stands, this is a joyous little racing package – which is more than I can say for Micro Machines.
WWG’s Rating: 4 out of 5.
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.