Many, many years ago, I huddled around a smallish, CRT TV with my early childhood friends, their Nintendo Entertainment System, and Micro Machines: The Video Game for a day of racing. If you were not yet a twinkle in your parents’ eyes during this era, Micro Machines were tiny toy cars – like a Matchbox or Hot Wheels baby sibling. They weren’t cutesy, just small. Their thematic video game took these wee, wheeled wonders and set them to race on proportionally matched (and outrageous) race tracks. I always wondered what would happen if the Micro Machines game grew up and now I know: it’s called MBR. This is our Mantis Burn Racing Switch review.
While Mantis Burn Racing has had some mileage put on it over the past year on the PPlayStation4, X-Box One, and PC platforms, the Nintendo Switch version released just in time for some turkey-induced lounge time! During this year in the wild, VooFoo Studios has added a few track types and gameplay modes.
For the uninitiated, Mantis Burn Racing is a top-down racing game with RPG-style customization elements, online competitive gameplay, a split-screen versus mode, and a career mode. There is a lot to unpack, so put on your stretchy pants and let’s dive in!
MBR’s Career Mode: “I gotta go fast!”
The career mode starts your journey into Mantis Burn Racing with a semi-gentle tutorial. I say semi-gentle because they do give you instructions on what to do, but I don’t believe that the AI at that level knows that you’re new…either that or they do… and they are taking full advantage of it! You learn quick or you get left behind.
Some of the races are straightforward while others require you to perform a task, like accumulating a specific number of points before another racer. I found gameplay modes like the latter to be a bit confusing. Either I missed a tutorial (which is entirely possible with my chronic button mashing) or it wasn’t clearly explained how one gains said points… other than being in first place.
This career mode contains five different circuits with 13 race-types that are stretched across 11 seasons. In total, the career mode is made up of over 150 races. You advance through the seasons by completing races. You don’t always have to be first, but as cinematic racing legend and Poweraid-aficionado Ricky Bobby would say: “If you ain’t first, you’re last!”
Gameplay: “Bells and whistles are great, but how does she handle?”
If you have ever driven a vehicle in a video game, you know that it can take a little bit to get used to how they handle within that particular game. Mantis Burn Racing is no exception to this axiom. What makes this even more challenging is that there are three different “weight” classes of cars that you will be driving… and yes, you have to drive all of them.
The light variety looks and handles like a dune-buggy. It’s springy suspension and lighter frame cause them to fly off of jumps and bounce around your courses. The medium racers are just that: a run-of-the-mill racer with good pickup-and-go and natural cornering. Then, there is the heavy class… a behemoth with a big motor that handles worse than my long-gone (but not forgotten) 1994 Chevy Astro van. Honestly, I’d take my old college van into a race before I’d want to drive one of these. Her name was Sheila… and she’ll always be a winner in my book.
Speaking of handling, while I wasn’t necessarily surprised by this, it was neat to see how naturally these cars handled in the different racing environments. During my testing, my father-in-law watched me play and eventually tried his hand at MBR. While he isn’t a gamer, he used to race Legend cars back in his heyday. As I would race, he would feed me old racing tips for handling such environments… and they worked!
A Racing RPG, you say?:
Mantis Burn Racing has a customization and upgrading system that has been described as an RPG-style system. I might disagree with this description because it isn’t a very deep system. Yes, you gain experience points as you race and you can customize your car – from the color to the five different stat areas, but that that seems to be where it ends. There is some balancing to the upgrades that need to be considered, but I’m not sure I would call it an RPG system. Maybe I’m just being picky.
As for those upgrades, there are five types of parts you can use to customize your car. Along the way, you can add upgrades to your engine, gearbox, suspension, boost, and tyres. No, that isn’t a typo and yes, they spelled it that way… I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s to pay homage to Sidon’s ancient Samaritan sister city of the same spelling. But more likely because VooFoo is in the UK.
All joking aside, these upgrades can turn a race in your favor. When you see the opportunity to pick one up and install it, do it!
Does Mantis Burn Racing Stay on Track?:
VooFoo Studios describes the Nintendo Switch version of Mantis Burn Racing as the definitive version of the game. What they mean by this is that all of the existing DLC for Mantis Burn Racing that was made available on other platforms post-release is included with this version at its $20 USD price point. This DLC includes zippy-fast ‘Elite’ cars and ‘Battle Cars’ as well as snowy tracks.
While this game did bring me back to those childhood memories of Micro Machines and I did have a fair amount of fun with Mantis Burn Racing, I found that some of the race tracks felt repetitive. Within the same career season, you might drive on the same track a handful of times – somethings forward, sometimes reversed. While it helped get accustomed to the cars and the tracks, it started to lose my attention. On the plus side, the tracks are gorgeous though. The depth of the scenery did draw me back in.
What sweetens the deal for Mantis Burn Racing is the opportunity to play with your friends in a variety of ways. Whether it’s head-to-head with four player split-screen, 8 players on multiple Switch consoles via local Wi-Fi, or racing online with players on other platforms via Cross-Network play, there are options to continue the fun from the couch to the comfort of your our easy chair.
All in all, if you’re looking for a fun pick-up-and-play game that’s easy to race a round or two and then move on, Mantis Burn Racing might be for you. If you like driving games which offer you the option to tune your machine to the way you like your car to handle, MBR has a promising system to allow you to do just that.
As for me, I’m going back in for another sammich… if I’m not back in time for the next race, send a pumpkin pie after me!
Note: Our copy was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with a code provided by PR.
COMPARE TO: Micro Machines (NES), Little Racers STREET, Mario Kart