A year after gracing this generation’s other platforms, Mantis Burn Racing rolls up to the starting line on Nintendo Switch. And if cars could swagger, there’s no doubt that VooFoo studio’s four-wheeled creations would be doing just that, as the UK-based outfit has delivered what could be the definitive version of the game.
As if squeezing a rock-solid 60fps out of Nintendo’s little device (in both docked and handheld modes) wasn’t enough, VooFoo have jammed in all the previously released DLC and cross-platform (with PC and Xbox, thanks to Sony’s anti-consumer approach) play, too.
But let’s pop it into reverse for a second, and back up a little. What is Mantis Burn Racing all about? Put simply, it’s classic top-down racing fun, with a surprising amount of power under the bonnet.
Initially, everything feels slick and polished and throw-away. A disposable experience, until you realise just how solid and weighty your tiny vehicles (oh, so tiny in handheld mode) feel. VooFoo’s proprietary physics engine is doing the heavy lifting here, with the game tuned for feel and fun more than anything else. Power sliding here is every bit as thrilling as in any modern simulation racer.
Eyebrows are further raised when you get to grips with the surprisingly tunable upgrade system. Racing unlocks upgrades for your stable of vehicles – more powerful engines, gearbox enhancements for acceleration, suspension to handle the jumps more effectively, grippier tyres – you get the drift (pun intended). Upgrades fit into slots in each car – limiting only the total number of upgrades that can be applied, but not imposing any other cap. Want a car that’s rocket-fast off the line? No problem; fill all your slots with gearbox bits. Sick of drifting (you fool)? Go crazy with grippy tyres.
Even once you’ve filled up all your slots, there are still options. Throw some (in game) currency at your vehicle and the chassis will be transformed; you’ll have a sleeker, meaner vehicle with even more slots to fill. Lovely.
It’s a well thought out mechanic (pun intended) that allows you to tune each vehicle from the three classes – light, medium and heavy – to suit your unique driving style. And while upgrades aren’t permanent, removing an upgrade destroys it, so you’ll need to plan a little. As you progress through the game you’ll need to wring out every last upgrade to stay competitive, and that will mean replaying races to collect every drop of XP.
As you progress, you’ll unlock new vehicles in each class across the skill levels (rookie, pro, veteran, and elite – hover vehicles!)
Progression through the game is limited by your skill, your car’s upgrades, and ‘gears’ – essentially a measure of progress. To move from one season to the next you’ll need to have accumulated a set number of gears, through winning races and completing challenges – winning without boost, beating a specific lap time, or destroying track-side objects, for example.
It could be argued that these elements are just MacGuffin. In truth, we never felt we needed an excuse to replay races, not when everything feels so good out on track. What did really spur us on – and continues to do so – was learning every little detail of every track to save every precious millisecond. Mantis Burn Racing – for all that the cars are drift-happy – rewards precision and cruelly punishes carelessness. Quarter-lap leads can be lost in the blink on an eye from an overly-eager cornering attempt.
Alongside the single player career mode sits two- or four-player split screen mode, local wireless play, and online racing – with the aforementioned cross-platform play. It’s a tremendous package – add in the mayhem that is battle cars and it’s unparalleled.
In the past I’ve called Mantis Burn Racing a “wonderful, meaty, thrilling and above all else fun experience” and there’s nothing in this version of the game that changes our minds. Sure, the soundtrack is a little weak and some of the on-screen labelling is tiny in handheld mode, but the bumper-to-bumper racing and the sheer wealth of content makes Mantis a must have Switch title.
Brilliantly fun, offering a riotous racing experience. Buy it.
Mantis Burn Racing is available from the Store for £14.99 / $19.99 USD / €15.99.
Release Date: 23 November 2017 on Nintendo Switch (the game enjoyed a release on other platforms in 2016)
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, Steam