A Solid Top-Down Racer with Fine Tuned Mechanics
By Edwin Velez
Reviewed on Xbox One
Released on October 11th, 2016 For Xbox One, PS4, and PC
Developer: VooFoo Studios Publisher: VooFoo Studios
VooFoo studios, known for their Pure series (Pure Pool, Pure Poker, Pure Chess) is back with a new title. This time around, they have taken the classic top down racer formula and gave it a face lift as well as a deeper mechanics system. Boasting a variety of modes, maps, cars and featuring a career mode, Mantis Burn Racing seems to elevate the value of traditional top down racers immediately. While it does bring the genre to new heights in some ways, it’s not always the most fun experience. Looks and some tight controls will carry you through the bulk of the majority of the experience, there is some key issues that some may find kill the fun at times. Let’s start by taking a look at the most basic of functions for any game in the genre: the racing.
Table top racers are traditionally fast pace battles to the finish line, with a focus on haste over realism. When it comes to Mantis Burn Racing, it appears to be the opposite. Early on, players will quickly get a feel for the controls. There is a clear emphasis that this is a racing game that focuses on the mechanics and the heart of racing, with precision and performance in mind. The unfortunate part is that the actual racing feels like it drags a bit. The term that comes to mind is “zippy”, and when I say the cars are not “zippy” enough I mean that they feel rather sluggish. As opposed to quick launches and fast speeds, the cars feel pretty heavy. I feel that, even in a game that wants to be a true to heart racer, zippy-ness is essential in a top down racer and it is just not here. As you progress, upgrades and new cars will alleviate this to a degree, but it still does not have that oomph. For instance, hitting a wall (in most cases) brings your car to a near complete halt, hurting your positioning in the race. Walls are basically detrimental. Without that quick, attentive speed, it really negates the overall engagement and experience of the races early on.
That’s not to say the racing is broken. The controls are really tight. Handling is smooth once you get a feel for your car. Drifting is by far the most satisfying aspect of the races. There are some awesome tracks that really allow you to test your skills at the wheel, and when massive turns are nailed it’s hard not to crack a smile of success. Drafting other racers works really well too. In a lot of tight races, drafting can be the strategy that puts you ahead of the pack. There is a solid variety of race types to compete in. Standard circuit races, knockout, endurance, and time trials are all here as the standards with a few others included for good measure. While in career mode, some races will require a specific car in order to enter. That’s where the car and the car leveling system come into play. The game features an RPG like leveling system, where you rank up after so much experience is earned and earn upgrades over the course of those levels. These upgrades can be assigned to any of your cars and will improve one of the cars several stats. After all the available upgrade slots are filled, you can pay to up the amount of slots on the car, and in turn keep upgrading it to its max potential and ideal tune up. Both the upgrade system and the career are laid out well, being easy to navigate. While the vehicles are upgradeable, the customization really lacks. You can only change color and class, and while some variations to the vehicles do come by way of upgrades, it is just not enough in my opinion.
Not surprisingly though, the game looks amazing. I would not expect anything less from a team that brought the world Pure Pool¸ which is a beauty to look at and play. The tracks are vibrant and detailed as they should be, and vary from location to location. They also offer reverse laps which technically doubles the amount of courses. Each course was built for the technical gameplay, with tight and wide turns testing your drifting prowess, while others feature jumps and wide open spreads for the more bumper to bumper racing. The music caught my ear early on my thoughts on the tracks went sour shortly after when I realized how repetitive they got. When I first booted up Mantis Burn Racing, I thought the title track was delightful and had some edgy flair to it. The songs during the races had that same appeal, but by the end of the first season of races I had already grown tired of them. They do not shuffle from course to course, and instead play out on a per track basis it would seem. This means during a season that will have many similar courses, you can bet on hearing the same song multiple times. At the end of the day, they are well composed tracks, but just not well varied. The car sounds leave more to be desired but get the job done. I just wish the engines were not obnoxiously roaring on the title screen. It really makes a poor first impression.
I took part in a handful of multiplayer races, both local and online, and found that the lack of the previously mentioned “zippy-ness” dulled it out a bit. It is not a huge deal when you are in career and the competitors are effectively balanced, but it does not embody the same fun I have had in multiplayer races in other titles of the genre. There are also weekly challenges that shake things up and the ones I have played have been fun. Regardless, the career mode is the real seller here. It has a lot of fun in store for players and is really supported by its leveling system. The farther you get in the game, the better it becomes, as both yourself and the competition get increased speeds. You will find yourself in more close races, making precision a key. Overall, my experience with Mantis Burn Racing was a positive one. I just wish this positivity was embodied straight out of the gate, but it was something that more or less grew on me. Regardless, VooFoo Studios put their cards on the table and came out with a winning hand. I still think their next venture should be a highly detailed, but arcade inspired bowling game. That would be right up my alley (so sorry for that.)
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 7.5/10
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