STAFF REVIEW of Mantis Burn Racing (Xbox One)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Mantis Burn Racing Box art I’ve always had an affinity for top down racers ever since the classic NES game Micro Machines. That leads me to Mantis Burn Racing, my latest review. While it tends to take itself a bit more seriously than a typical toy car racing game, it manages to break away from the pack of poor to mediocre top down racers with its tight controls, expansive career mode, upgrades, as well simple and fun gameplay. There’s enough content here to appease hardcore racers, yet easy enough to delve into for casual players to enjoy themselves a simple race at a time.

The bulk of your gameplay will be in the career mode. Here you’ll find a variety of different race types, ranging from standard races, elimination, and point based races. Instead of your standard ‘come in first’, which you do want to do, you are able to earn up to 6 gears per event; 3 for winning, and 3 others for completing side objectives. These side objectives can vary from things like drifting a certain distance, getting a certain amount of air, destroying a number of objects, beating a specific lap time and more.

These side objectives are a neat way of earning your progress and something that I really prefer, since you can still earn some gears even if you don’t come in first place. This also challenges you to try something different during your races that you may not regularly attempt. The final events in a season are locked by a set number of gears that you need to access the final race. You generally shouldn’t have to grind for the gears to unlock them, but there’s actually quite a few seasons to be played, all the way up to a Pro level for those that really want to sink some time into the game.

Most race events are your basic 'must-come-in-first-place' variety, but there’s generally a good selection of others to keep things interesting. Knockout races add some frantic gameplay making sure you’re not in last place on each lap or else you’re eliminated. Time trials generally gives you 2 or 3 laps to make your best time, and beating the par time determines your placing. There’s even an interesting mode that awards you points for the better position you’re in during the race, with the winner being the first to earn 10,000 points. All of these will earn you rewards as you go, and can even be replayed to grind for XP or try and get those secondary objectives for the gears if you desire.

There are essentially two environments you’ll be racing in: city and desert, but 90% of the time will be in the desert. The tracks are somewhat varied, each with their own layouts of twists, turns, and jumps, but most of the time you’ll be racing the same handful of tracks, sometimes in reverse. There are one or two interesting tracks, but honestly, the variety is lacking, and racing the same desert map over again can become a little dull a few career seasons in.

Mantis Burn Racing incorporates the use of 3 different types of vehicles: Light, Medium, and Heavy. Light vehicles are like buggies, very fast and quick turners. Heavy vehicles are very slow yet can burst through barricades for secret shortcuts. Lastly, medium vehicles are right in the middle for performance. Most events will lock you to a specific type of class, but there are a handful of open races which allow you to choose your favorite (or most upgraded) vehicle.

I was quite surprised with how well the game’s controls were. I’m so used to decent racers, particularly top down racers, being brought down by terrible controls, so I guess I just expected it. Mantis Burn Racing handles great, and while it will take a few races to get the hang of, it’s very basic to learn, yet it has some intricacies for those that really want to improve their lap times. Even once you get the hang of drifting, the controls are very tight, and crashes feel like they were completely your fault for trying to drift too close to that inside barrier. A minor complaint I do have is that since you’re constantly switching vehicle types so it’s hard to get really used to one of them since you’re never stuck with a specific type for more than a race or two generally.

As you progress in events and earn upgrades, you put these upgrades into slots on your vehicle. These upgrades range from better tires, suspension, engines, and more. Your starting cars have 3 upgrade slots, and once full you can pay to upgrade it to a better version with more upgrade slots. It’s a smart way to continually improve your vehicles and customize them however you wish. Keep in mind though, you have 3 different types of vehicles, and if you constantly upgrade a certain class, the other ones will start to fall behind, making it much more difficult when you’re stuck with them for specific events.

I generally don’t expect smaller indie titles to include an online multiplayer, but again, Mantis Burn Racing surprised me by including it. There is local and online co-op, and the host can designate which types of vehicles, race, map, and even enable or disable upgrades. This means you can bring your career mode’s cars online and test them out against others, which is a great feature. While there weren’t a large amount of people playing, but I was able to find a match every time I tried to play online, which speaks volumes compared to other smaller titles’ online communities.

My biggest complaint is the terribly long loading times that take place before and after every race, even if you mess up and need to restart an event. The gameplay is smooth throughout, and the graphics are serviceable, but the prolonged loading times really damper the experience if you’re playing for any prolonged amount of time.

As I said before, I love top down racers, and Mantis Burn Racing does a great job at being accessible for casual racers, yet it has enough features and a full bodied career mode for those that want to dive in deeper. It has a surprising amount of depth, and I kept wanting to race ‘just one more race’ every time I played. Sure the track repetition becomes stale at times, and the loading times are frustrating, but if you take it for what it is, a simple and fun toy car racer with some depth, then you’re bound to have at the least a few hours of fun.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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