Mantis Burn Racing is a top down racer from VooFoo Studios, a developer normally known for their "parlour games" (as Creative Director Shaun Read described it) like Backgammon Blitz, Pure Chess and Hustle Kings. Breaking from this mould, MBR has the studio taking aim at another genre and applying its trademark visual quality, and it does this very well.
The visuals are impressive, but not over the top, and VooFoo have done a lot to make sure the simplicity of the top-down racer remains. The car design is simple, but with a bit more of a wow factor to them, and away from the tracks there are decorative features like chasms and buildings and this all makes the game look more modern. Essentially, though, the design, layout and format are all the same as beloved classics like Micro Machines. Apart from the odd destructible on the track, they are windy, bendy pathways with plenty of u-turns and hairpins, sections that are characteristic of the genre. Tracks are challenging and require great handling and precision turning a lot of the time, and memorising the layout is often a key to success.
What Mantis Burns Racing excels at is offering moreish gameplay, and by that we mean that the buzz of overtaking an opponent on a jump or nailing a wide drift round a turn is so great that it makes us want just one more race (which of course turns into more). The racing is rather addictive and the satisfaction from success only intensifies this, especially since it offers cool jumps, skidding tires and high-speed boosts to relish again and again. With the option to customise the camera as well, there is all the more reason to enjoy what Mantis Burn Racing offers.
The career mode also fuelled our addiction, offering seven different seasons, with each being split into a tree of events you have to work along to accumulate gears to unlock the next season. The desire to keep pushing on and get further along the path is part of how it gets you hooked, especially since optional branches of this tree can unlock upgrades as well, some of which are randomised.
In terms of events on offer, there's Race, Hot Lap, Sprint, Knockout, Time Trial, Accumulator, Overtake and League. In other words, there's no shortage, and this variety keeps the career from getting stale, as a Race can be followed by an Overtake event which offers a totally new challenge. With so many events split into these seasons, there is also enough substance there to challenge players for hours, especially if they want to complete all events 100%.
This is made even more challenging by the fact that each event offers three objectives, awarding one, two and three gears each. These challenges can be as simple as winning the event, but also involve things like a making a certain amount of drifts or taking a shortcut. Sometimes, then, simply winning isn't enough to progress or complete an event fully, and players need to consider more than one thing if they're to get all the gears available.
The upgrades are a great feature, and simple to use as well. There are several types of upgrades, such as suspension, gearbox and boost, and assigning these are as simple as placing their circular symbols into a slot, and if all the slots are full you can use credits to pay to level up your vehicle, giving more slots. Balance has to be considered too, as levelling up your boost without tires will ensure you are fast but won't help you turn. With the option to change the colour of your vehicle and your boost as well, there's plenty of reason to keep popping back to the garage to keep tweaking your cars.
There aren't tons of vehicles in the game, but with a top-down racer trying to maintain the beautiful simplicity of the genre this is fine as there is one light, medium and heavy vehicle per skill bracket i.e. Rookie, Pro and Veteran, resulting in nine in total. These freshen up the options every now and then, while also making sure the choice isn't overwhelming, something that works very well.