At a time where games seem to be ever more bent on being realistic, it can be nice to find a game that considers itself that little bit more arcade. Mantis Burn Racing is one such game - a top down, fender bending racer that's still rooted in real world physics. At the recent gamescom show in Germany, we got to go hands-on with Mantis Burn Racing - and left impressed with what we saw.
Picking up a pad to get stuck in, with the tired, yet still clearly enthusiastic Sean Read, ex-Rare staffer and now Creative Director at Birmingham based VooFoo by our side, it didn't take long for the comparisons to start rolling. To us, the game almost feels like a top-down version of classic PS3 racer Motorstorm, as your car sends up an endless dust stream behind it whilst drifting effortlessly around corners, but to Sean, it has its roots in games a little bit more retro. "It's inspired by me playing endless hours of Micro Machines, Rock and Roll Racing and Mashed back in the day. Although it's arcadey in appearance, it's quite physics based. We didn't want anything artificial like start boosts, or drift buttons - the cars act how you imagine they'd feel."
And he's not wrong. In fact, it's perhaps a bit surprising that it really didn't take that long to adapt to the slightly unusual camera angle and really get stuck - before we knew it, we were drifting around the courses like a pro. Designed for pick up and play appeal, it's a game that VooFoo are also hoping will rekindle the local multiplayer sessions of old, with support for up to four players in split-screen (something that's practically unheard of as of late), and up to eight players online.
There's a variety of cars for you to burn rubber in too, each divided into one of three different classes. Lightweight cars are things like dune buggies, trading the edge off their top speed for fast acceleration, although their light weight means they can "get bullied around". Middleweight cars, meanwhile, are "OK at everything, but not really brilliant at anything". And finally, heavyweight vehicles are "slow at accelerating, but have a high top speed", and can break through barriers other vehicles can't, to create short cuts - although, as Sean notes, "other cars can follow after"
No matter which class of vehicle you're driving in, though, you can earn XP as you play through the game, which can be spent on unlocking upgrades for your vehicle, or even all new vehicles. Overtaking, drafting, drifting and taking shortcuts will all earn you XP - and also charges up your boost meter. Perhaps unfortunately, though, this is as close as the game gets to a power up - there's no oil slicks or weapons here.
Unlike many other arcade-style racers, there's a lengthy career mode on offer here for those playing in single player, that offers up an array of challenges beyond pure racing. From knockout contests to accumulators (the player out in front earns points the longer they stay there, first to 10,000 wins), variety is the idea here, with challenges split up into seven "seasons" of racing. The team promise it'll take around 12 hours to blast your way through - with more to come post launch.
In fact, that's perhaps one of the only things that left us feeling a little bit underwhelmed about Mantis Burn Racing. At the moment, the game only comes with two environments - there's Sandtown, a desert area where sand dunes and dust clouds are the order of the day, and New Shangri-La, a bustling city scape with neon lights and plenty of tarmac. Luckily, soon after launch, VooFoo will be launching some free DLC that adds a third environment to the game, another four tracks, and even a few more seasons for the game's career - but we can't help but feel it would have been that little bit more appealing had it come with three environments, and had a fourth as free DLC instead.
Still, with so much single player fun to get stuck into, and enough split-screen options to make this a worthy challenger for those frantic local multiplayer game sessions, it could be the comparative lack of environments isn't actually that much of a drawback. We'll see how the total package weighs up when Mantis Burn Racing launches "soon", for £14.99.