From publisher and developer VooFoo Studios comes Mantis Burn Racing, a modern top-down arcade style racing game that provides fast paced competitive races while also using some fine tuned physics-based gameplay. This definitive version of the game (which was originally released on other platforms last year) includes an 11-season single-player campaign with over 150 individual events of 13 different types, all of the available DLC from previous platforms, and an RPG-style upgrade system to fine tune each car the way you want it to run. Additionally, you can split the screen with up to four players sharing the same console or take the race online and across all of the other available platforms for up to eight players on the cross-network play.
I am a sucker for a good racing game. Some of my earliest and fondest memories I have of playing video games are traveling down to my local arcade to play on cabinets like Off-Road with my friends, and one of my favorite titles for the SNES is Rock N’ Roll racing, both of which this game seems to take inspiration from especially with the battle modes. It seems like each system has to have at least one good racing title. The Nintendo Switch is no exception to that rule, already boasting racing titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Fast RMX, but is it possible that the Switch has already reached its peak for racing games, and that Mantis Burn Racing is just another unsuccessful port? Based on my experience with this game, I would definitely have to say Mantis Burn Racing exceeded my expectations and is a blast to play on the Switch.
From a control perspective, Mantis Burn Racing is quite accessible, primarily using only a few buttons to control your vehicle. The left stick controls your steering, the ZR bumper controls your accelerator, and during traditional races you can use a boost after a while by using the A button. Additionally, there is a brake button for extremely tight turns but I didn’t rely on that too much during my play through. You also have the option to control your vehicle with motion controls, but much like braking I steered clear (driving pun intended) of this option and used the traditional control method.
As you race through the single player career mode you will compete on various tracks to earn gears to level up and unlock upgrades for your vehicles. You learn quickly that drifting and drafting play a huge role in your success or failure in this game. Drifting corners can help you easily pass competing vehicles, but if you aren’t proactive with your driving someone can come up behind you and use your draft stream to speed right around you. The three difficulty classes for career mode (rookie, pro, and veteran) ensure that the game is balanced as you play, not ever being overly difficult at any given time and growing with you as you get better at the game. Additionally there are three different weight classes for vehicles (light, medium, and heavy) that allow for some much needed gameplay diversity, as the tracks do tend to get a little repetitive after a few runs through them. Each different vehicle you purchase can be colored the way you like, and your boost flames can also be given a specific hue as they flow from behind your vehicle. I’m a big fan of darker colors, so my combination was usually dark grey or steel with some dark color as the boost stream.
In career mode it’s not just about standard races. There are quite a few different event modes that you experience in Mantis Burn Racing. Some events are single races of up to five laps, while other races are league races comprised of multiple races in one event (think like a grand prix from Mario Kart). Other unique events are the spotlight races (where your vehicle has to stay in the light or you’ll get eliminated) and knockout races (where the car at the back of the pack gets eliminated each lap until there is only one car left) which only add to the diversity of racing gameplay offered here. In addition to trying to win at every event, there are also bonus challenges to complete. These can be as simple as drifting for a certain distance overall or by destroying a certain number of trackside obstacles and will lead to earning more ‘gears,’ which are vital to your forward progress in career mode.
The surprise mode that I really enjoyed had to be the battle mode. During battle events, vehicles are equipped with machine guns and can also drop mines on the track. While the actual racing event doesn’t change, the added opportunity to blow up the competition does add a new angle to the racing experience and is a lot of fun to play.
As you compete in and win events you earn XP and the in-game currency G. Using the currency, you can apply specific upgrades to your vehicles. Upgrades vary as to what they enhance, but the best part is that you can balance each and every vehicle to fit your own play style. You can improve your speed, grip, suspension, boost power, and acceleration and make your car quite the racing machine. Each vehicle comes with a few upgrade slots, but once they’re filled you can add more by coughing up some G to cover it. My only advice here would be to make sure you try to balance the car when you upgrade. If you put too many upgrades into your top speed without also enhancing your handling capabilities, it will be a tough go and you’ll likely have to scrap that car and start over with a new car.
While the single-player career mode is a ton of fun and easy to pick up, some of the multiplayer modes are really where the action is. Local multiplayer is supported for up to 4 people on a single system. I found that after dividing the game up beyond 2 players in tabletop mode the game was way to difficult to see and required docking. It’s nice to have the flexibility to have multiplayer races of more than two without having the Switch docked, but I see now why games often limit that capability.
Cross-platform online play is another option for racers looking for a challenge. Up to 8 players can join, and the best part is that you can race players from all of the available platforms. For me, the online play left a lot to be desired though as it didn’t seem to be very active. There were only a few times I was able to get a full 8 player roster together, meaning all other games were filled with computers. The online mode also has a unique weekly challenge that lets you track your ranking on a leaderboard. Challenges here vary and have recently had players see how quickly they can lap an opponent more than once and do a five lap time trial as fast as they can.
I’m a big fan of how Mantis Burn Racing presents the entire track as part of a larger environment, something that has always been the case for top-down racing games as opposed to third person racing games. While the visuals are nice to look at and well executed, there is nothing really groundbreaking about what they do here.
Much like the visuals, the audio (both the soundtrack and sound effects) complements the game rather nicely. The sound design and quality is exactly what you’d expect from a racing game and doesn’t do anything to break that norm, but it’s something that doesn’t hinder the game or prevent it from being enjoyable either.
Mantis Burn Racing is an insanely fun racing title that I truly feel brings something new and worthwhile to the racing lineup available on the Nintendo Switch. From the top-down visuals and cross-network online capabilities to the highly customizable nature of each of the vehicles and the extensive career mode, this game will keep you coming back for more racing action. The only negative I found with the entire game was that it was lacking in the number of tracks offered to race on, which after a while gets a little repetitive. Beyond that single thing the fact that you get all of the previously released DLC in this definitive edition more than justifies the purchase price, making Mantis Burn Racing a great NintenDeal and a racing title I highly suggest to any Switch owner.
A native of Minnesota, Brandon has been an avid Nintendo fan for as long as he can remember and enjoys being able to escape into the vast worlds offered in their games. Some of his favorite games include: Pokemon Blue & Silver, Earthbound, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Risk of Rain 2, and of course LoZ: Breath of the Wild.
Outside of gaming Brandon enjoys riding motorcycle, listening to music or podcasts, cooking, watching movies, and is a big sports fan. He is always carrying his Switch with him wherever he goes, so feel free to add him if you’d like to lose at MK8D.