Nintendo Switch has seen a number of games in its first year, but the racing genre seems to be the one with the least representation. With Fast RMX, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Gear.Club Unlimited being among the few of the racing genre’s only exemplars on Switch thus far, one could say there’s room for a bit more variety. Enter Mantis Burn Racing, a top-down racing game with RPG elements and a variety of race types and modes. How does VooFoo Studios’ inaugural Switch title hold up?
As mentioned, Mantis Burn Racing is a racing game with a top-down perspective, much akin to some of the RC racing games of yesteryear. Using either thumbstick or motion controls, you race your chosen, upgradable car in a variety of race types and tracks with the goal of…you guessed it, coming in first place. That’s pretty much it. You can play through the game’s Career mode to unlock in-game currency as well as gears, which unlock parts you can use to upgrade your vehicle, and there are online leaderboards for each track as well. Mantis Burn Racing also supports online races for up to eight players, and there’s local co-op (either with multiple Switch systems or via four-player split screen) to race against your friends.
In the aforementioned Career mode, the player is given a quick text-based tutorial. That’s right: the first time you race is during your first event—there is no practice mode or actual gameplay tutorial given here. That said, once you’re dropped into your first race, it’s sink or swim. At first, I found the game’s controls unwieldy, but, as with any new game (particularly racers), once you play around a bit, you get used to the game’s controls and physics. That said, I still have trouble taking tight corners and not smashing into walls. Fortunately, there are different vehicle types (based on weight class) you can use, and each vehicle is upgradable with different parts. Be warned, though: once you apply an upgrade to a car, you can’t just take the part back and put it on another vehicle. Once you decide to take a part off a car, it’s gone for good.
The rest of Career mode packs in a decent amount of variety. Some of the race types along the player’s career path might include Accumulation, where you have to reach a certain number of points by pulling off different achievements, or Knockout, where the player in last place at the end of each lap is eliminated until only the victor remains.There are some branching paths in Career mode as well, so while you don’t have to complete each event to move onto the next level, it might behoove the player to do so, as certain unlockables can only be obtained by completing certain events. Each level in Career mode tends to stick to a set number of tracks, but the game will change things up by switching between tracks for each event, as well as taking familiar tracks and making the player race in the opposite direction. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason as to why the game doesn’t warn you about flipping tracks around aside from giving a bit of variety—otherwise, racing around the same turns and obstacles would be repetitively boring. Though there is a fair bit of variety with Career mode, beyond gaining currency to unlock new cars, I didn’t find much lasting appeal as far as single-player content is concerned.
Though Career mode is the main offering as far as single-player content goes, the crown jewel of Mantis Burn Racing is its multiplayer options. Outside of Career mode, players can race with the cars and on the tracks of their choice in local play against human friends or AI opponents, as well as online, and each of the aforementioned race types, plus more, are available here as well. Playing online, however, can be a bit tricky to understand at first. Playing online in Mantis Burn Racing isn’t as simple as queueing up into a group and starting a race based on player-set parameters. Instead, the player either has to create an online lobby his- or herself, or join a lobby created by another online player. In two different attempts to play online, I received a message that there were no other players online and that I could set to race AI opponents while I waited for players to populate the lobby. I don’t know if this was caused by server issues or if there were simply no other players online when I was searching, but either way, it’s disconcerting to see a game that seems to tout its ability to play online suffer from these kinds of issues. Moreover, I wish you didn’t have to choose between creating your own lobby or joining another one. If each player goes searching for a lobby and doesn’t create one of his or her own, or vice-versa, there could potentially be numerous players trying to play online, but there would be no way to match them together.
Online criticisms aside, the game runs and plays very well on Switch. As mentioned earlier, the game’s controls and physics take some getting used to, and trying each weight class along with upgrades to speed, traction, etc., will change up each car’s physics. There are even some tracks, like those from the Snowbound DLC, which change how your car handles as well. Later on, you can even purchase cars with mounted guns, which adds yet another layer to the game. The controls feel responsive using both the Pro controller and Joy-Cons. The game does offer motion control steering, but I’d “steer” clear of that option. Motion steering feels arbitrary and tacked-on, so I felt much more in control when using analog controls. That said, I did find it sometimes difficult to tell which car was mine. In more than one race, many of the cars appeared to be the same color as mine, and the player names that usually hover above each car disappear when there are multiple cars in the same proximity, so it often became confusing when each car inevitably bumps into one another at the start of each race.
When either in handheld or while docked, the game runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second, and the visuals look stunning on both. Each track’s surrounding environment looks great and seems well-polished. I did encounter a couple spots where the collision detection seemed a bit off on certain tracks when running into walls, but that’s a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things.
All things considered, Mantis Burn Racing is a good game in the Switch’s library. Despite some issues with online functionality, Mantis Burn Racing is great for short pick-up-and-play sessions, especially with friends, but there just doesn’t seem to be much lasting single-player appeal.
Disclaimer: A review code for Mantis Burn Racing was provided by the game’s publisher.