Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mantis Burn Racing (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

From a racing game on water from yesterday to a racing game planted firmly on the ground (with the occasional hang time from hills), SuperPhillip Central centers its focus on VooFoo Studios' Mantis Burn Racing. This game saw a release on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam already, and now it has arrived on the Nintendo Switch. That is the version of the game I'll be covering with this review. Let's mind the corners and navigate those twisty turns together at once!

I'm burning, I'm burning, I'm burning for you.

I started playing games in the NES era, and with those games came one I went crazy over. It was a top-down racer called Super Off Road, where drivers raced along undulated dirt tracks in single screen arenas. My, how have times changed. VooFoo's Mantis Burn Racing has been on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam storefronts a little bit now, and recently it was added to the Nintendo Switch eShop. With beautiful HD environments with tricky tracks and circuits to compete in, Mantis Burn Racing delivers a fast and insane top-down racing experience that shows how far the genre has come since my days as a kid playing Super Off Road.

Mantis Burn Racing is easy to learn with its minimal required button inputs. You have a trigger for acceleration, a trigger to brake, and a boost button that can be used when you've produced enough boost energy done by earning XP mid-race. XP is handed out liberally with 20 points here for a good drift around a turn and 20 point there for overtaking an opponent. It's best to learn how to take turns well and use boost energy adequately, or else you'll find opponents easily overtaking you.

You can even earn XP from getting big air like these racers are about to do.
As you progress through the main mode for solo players in Mantis Burn Racing, the career, you earn gears, XP, and currency to progress through the ranks along a map of sorts. All of the paths converge at the end where a lock rests. By fulfilling the gear requirement of that lock, it opens, allowing progress to the next series of challenges. XP is used to gain levels, filling up a linear line that occasionally unlocks new vehicles, modifications for your vehicles, and cold, hard currency, which you can use to purchase vehicles, upgrade old ones, and the like. Modifications comes in several forms, such as for tires, the engine, the suspension, and more to work on each vehicle's handling, acceleration, top speed, etc. 

The career mode features an abundance of event types, such as standard races, Elimination events where the racer in last gets eliminated one-by-one until there's no other racers left but first place, time trials, Overtake events that have you rushing to race past other cars to overtake five other vehicles before your opponents do. The variety with events on display here is nice, especially since the track variety suffers a bit.

There are 12 tracks total in Mantis Burn Racing, and while that number would be adequate in any other racer, in Mantis Burn Racing the tracks are spread out across only three environments. You never race in familiar territory structure and turn-wise in the different races, but you do speed through similar-looking environments like a dusty canyon, a corner-intensive city, and on a snowy and treacherous mountainside. The track designers did their best to add some variety to the tracks despite being in only three environment types such as New Shangra-la's tracks taking place in nighttime on a track with a green glow to it, a harbor course that is drenched in light from a setting sun, and a trip through a monument-filled scenic route of the city.

One New Shangra-la race goes from overpasses to sewer channels.
The DLC from the PS4, Xbox One, and Steam versions of Mantis Burn Racing come already pre-installed with the Nintendo Switch version, but to play those seasons within the career mode, you need to reach a certain point in the career. There are so many events throughout the career mode (and so many roadblocks like needed the right vehicle weight class that requires the player to spend currency they might have to grind for just for the necessary ride) that reaching the end or even less making substantial progress in the career turns out to highly tedious and repetitive. 

While another race occurs at night alongside some scenic sights. 
This is especially so if you're trying to gain all six gears per event through completing achievement-like challenges, such as winning the race, drifting for a set number of seconds, crashing through a certain amount of breakable objects, beating specific lap times, and more. Though you have to admire the huge volume of events available throughout the career mode and the carrot on the stick supplied for players to engage and engross themselves with unlocking content. You can't say the quantity is not there, even if the quality gets a bit repetitive along the way. Not a bad problem to have, however, if you're enjoying what's here.

And what's here in Mantis Burn Racing is quite good. The racing is superb, and customizing your vehicles is a must unless you want to bounce around the tracks like a hovercraft. You can alter the camera angle with the press of a button to support your preferred view. I went with a direct view over my vehicle, so all controls were traditionally handled (i.e. turning left on the analog stick turned my vehicle left instead of whichever way it was facing compared to an alternate camera angle). Sometimes, though, with such a camera angle, I found it hard to discern where turns were, as parts of the environment would obscure my view, leading to frustrating and time-consuming crashes straight into barriers, slowing my vehicle down immensely. 

I'm dreaming of a white and explosive Christmas with Mantis Burn Racing's Battle DLC.
Multiplayer offers plenty of content for players both online and locally. Cross play with PC players on the Nintendo Switch brings enough players to the fold where waiting around for races is seldom a lengthy process. All options are available to you when participating in multiplayer, such as the 12 tracks in both normal and reverse designs, all the modes including the Battle DLC, and more. As someone who doesn't really partake in online that much, everything seemed to run well enough and I enjoyed myself with the limited system-wide options available to me on the Nintendo Switch.

Mantis Burn Racing brings back good memories of my times playing Super Off-Road back in my youth, and it is of course a marked and sophisticated improvement over those memories in control, design, and everything else. The career mode could have used some shortening or a better variety of environments, but overall, Mantis Burn Racing captured the same spirit of mine as a game I really adored as a child, and made new memories that I will hopefully look back on in another 25 years.

[SPC Says: B]

Review copy provided by VooFoo Studios.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Riptide GP: Renegade (NSW) Review

And here we go! A barrage of end of the year reviews are coming to SuperPhillip Central. Our first game of the month and of this barrage is Riptide GP: Renegade for the Nintendo Switch. Released earlier this month, I found myself enjoying splashing across the water, the waves, and finding the greatest racing line to outwit my opponents. Here's the SuperPhillip Central review.

Blazing an aquatic trail

From the makers of Hydro Thunder Hurricane comes what can be considered a spiritual successor in Riptide GP: Renegade. This futuristic aquatic jet ski racer set in a world flooded by water has seen releases on multiple platforms already, including on mobile (which SuperPhillip Central gave a B- to in my original review of the game). Now, Riptide GP: Renegade splashes onto the Nintendo Switch's eShop for a relative low cost of entry, and it's very much worth riding these waves.

Riptide GP: Renegade plops you right in to the excitement with a race to quickly learn the controls. However, upon reaching a certain point in the race, a squad of police cruisers arrest you on the spot for illegal racing. A costly setup by a character named Krex that ends up with your character in prison for two years. In that time, your crew has come up with a multi-stage plan to get even with Krex, including getting new members to join you, and earning some race cred to get back into the official racing league.

Revenge is a dish best served wet.
All of this plays out in Riptide's career mode. Here, you compete in different event types across nine race tracks to put your crew's plan in action. There are standard races, as well as Elimination style, where after every 30 or so seconds the player in last place is eliminated until there is no one left but the race leader. There are also slalom events where you slosh along the water to situate yourself on the left and right side of slalom cones as you attempt to clear the track as fast as possible. Finally, Freestyle brings the trick system of Riptide GP into full display where pulling off the sickest tricks (while keeping mind that repeated tricks award less points) within the time limit is the way to go.

The career mode follows a linear path of events split in sections. These sections each have you and your crew trying to impress a certain character enough that they'll decide to race against you in a one-on-one contest. Win the race, and you'll not only be able to race as that character, but you'll also earn a more powerful ride with better stats and more upgrade potential.

Each event in the career mode awards you with up to three stars, depending on what place you get in on the podium. The events also provide cash and experience rewards. The former is used to upgrade your current jet ski in one of four categories such as top speed, acceleration, boost, and handling. Experience is used to level your rider up, netting you skill points that can be utilized to purchase new, more complicated tricks, as well as race bonuses like better drafting of other racers, a better boost at the start of races, and more boost energy upon successfully nailing tricks.

Helpful green signs like this one just ahead show when upcoming ramps are near.
Throughout the 4-6 hour career, you'll be spending a lot of time across the same nine tracks of the game, especially due to repeating certain events due to odd difficulty jumps along the way. This can be a bit repetitive to see the same nine tracks and having to compete on them repeatedly, but the tracks are designed so well that none of them stand out as anything close to bad. Many courses provide ample shortcut opportunities. Whether it's riding up a series of geysers to reach a giant half pipe for a perfect tricking spot or navigating the wild waves of The Ruins to pass under an overpass to discover an alternate path, these shortcuts are placed cleverly throughout each track, as are the decal-unlocking Easter Eggs to collect. Both shortcuts and Easter Eggs demand the player to be observant of their surroundings and to explore them, all the while gunning for first place.

You can customize your racer somewhat by not only changing which character you play as but also their vehicle. You can also alter both the color schemes of the racer and the jet ski with three different color categories to make colorful and artistic statements (or just go all Johnny Cash with a pure black outfit and bike if you like). Finally, decals and racing numbers can be applied to your racer/vehicle combination, and more and more decals are earned by competing events in career mode.

Use a color scheme and decal fit for jolly, good, old
racing representing Britannia or any country you like.
All of the events and tracks in the world don't mean a thing if Riptide GP: Renegade's gameplay isn't up to snuff. Thankfully, the handling of each vehicle, the physics of different wave types regarding how they bounce your vehicle around, and the collision detection regarding track geometry are all fantastic in design and execution. Skirting about the water's surface feels excellent, and leaping off waves and ramps to perform tricks (accomplished by tilting both analog sticks in specific directions) is always an exhilarating action.

Make sure you have plenty of room to perform your trick, or else you'll bail and lose valuable time!
Riptide GP: Renegade sports multiplayer options for local competition as well as online. The online portion isn't that active at all, unfortunately, but at the same time, with limited interaction between competitors in races, there isn't much to be found in variety. This makes the multiplayer experience a bit shallow when all it takes is one crash to be completely out of the race against more skilled players.

By virtue of being on a platform with better, more comfortable control options for a game of this type, Riptide GP: Renegade on the Nintendo Switch is a step up from its mobile offering, even though the price is more substantial on Switch. Excellent controls, handling, physics, track design, shortcuts, and a worthwhile career mode will present a lot of enjoyment for players while lackluster multiplayer options are hollow. Still, Riptide GP: Renegade manages to fly off the ramp, pulling off some incredible tricks midair while making a successful landing in the process. Forced metaphors aside, Riptide GP: Renegade is recommended by SuperPhillip Central.

[SPC Says: B]

Review copy provided by Vector Unit.

Monday, December 18, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "Twas the Week Before Christmas" Edition

'Twas the week before Christmas, and all through SuperPhillip Central's site
Phil was preparing game reviews to end the month for your delight

That... That's all I have for my Christmas poem so far. Instead, I bring you a special pre-Christmas edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs! Next week, presents will be opened, gifts will be given, and the fireplace will be lit up to make everyone warm and toasty. (Unless you're like me and don't have a fireplace in your household.)

This week's lineup of games features music from Star Wars Battlefront II, the recently released version, that is. Then, SoulCalibur V delivers an impressive orchestra and choir piece to bring even more emotion to this edition. Following that, we go a bit chill with music from Sonic Free Riders and Super Princess Peach. Things wrap up with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project.

Before I conclude my weekly introduction to SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, remember to check out the VGM Database for all past games and songs ever featured on this long-running segment. Now, let's get onto the music!

v1526. Star Wars Battlefront II (PS4, XB1, PC) - Falcon Flight

Beginning with a bang, Star Wars: The Last Jedi released in theaters this past Friday, so what better excuse to post a theme from a Star Wars game? While EA's Star Wars Battlefront II has been raked over the coals with its microtransactions, so much so that the company is temporarily removing them until it gets a better idea on how it wants to implement them, the presentation is absolutely breathtaking in both gorgeous visuals and magnificent sound. The latter part of the presentation is our focus with this theme that plays during the Millennium Falcon's flight.

v1527. SoulCalibur V (PS3, 360) - Daybreaker

Announced at The Game Awards 2017, SoulCalibur VI is set to launch on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime next year. Thus, let's take a look -- or in this case, listen -- back to the game that proceeded it, SoulCalibur V on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Much like Star Wars Battlefront II's score, we're greeted with an epic symphonic performance, but this time we have the powerful force of a backing chorus joining in.

v1528. Sonic Free Riders (360) - Metropolis Speedway

"Hey, hey, hey!" Groove with this track from the otherwise reprehensible attempt at bringing the Sonic Riders series to the Xbox 360's Kinect. It was a recipe for disaster, as well as a move that has pretty much killed the otherwise enjoyable Sonic Riders series. Thanks, Kinect! Having gotten my bitterness out, we can turn towards this infectious theme for the Metropolis Speedway circuit in Sonic Free Riders, one of the high points of the soundtrack as a whole.

v1529. Super Princess Peach (DS) - Tag the Flowers!

While those of us deep in the Midwest of the United States don't have much in the way of flowers to actually tag, much less pick, there's nothing saying we can't enjoy this delightful loop from the Nintendo DS' Super Princess Peach, the very first platformer where she's the star and not kidnapped. Instead, the roles are completely reversed with Mario being the one who is kidnapped by the ghastly Bowser. The Super Princess Peach soundtrack has a lot of cute and bouncy themes throughout its lineup of tunes, such as this one that only appears in a specific series of puzzle rooms in the first world of the game.

v1530. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES) - Ending Part 3

I would consider Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project the most overlooked of Konami's early era TMNT games. The first TMNT is well known for being ridiculously hard, TMNT II is a home port of the famous arcade game, and Turtles in Time (TMNT IV) saw the series leap to the Super Nintendo. Meanwhile, The Manhattan Project released after the launch of the SNES and didn't get too much hype otherwise. It's still a rather fun game, especially if you like beat-em-ups and/or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.