There is no shortage of Super Sprint-style racers on the appstore.
Reckless Racing and Death Rally are two high profile examples. The top down racing genre has been around longer than any racing type, based purely on the fact that consoles of yesteryear simply didn’t have the raw processing power to render decent cockpit view games. However, over the last few years this classic racing genre has received a fresh overhaul, particularly where the visuals are concerned. Reckless Racing was the first to bring almost photo-real environments (or what I like to call ‘the model village look’) to the track designs, and Death Rally followed.
Now there is a new kid on the block, and one that has impressed us as far back as GDC. With impressive graphics, great controls, and a host of unlock-able tracks and cars, it could be the best example of the top down racer yet.
Mini Motor racing comprises of the two ‘usual suspects’ of modes; Career and Quick Race. Career is where you’ll do most of your racing, and is the only place where you can earn cash to unlock new cars and upgrades, as well as win cups and unlock new tracks. Quick race, as usual allows you to dive in and play any of the unlocked tracks with your unlocked cars.
The available cars come in all shapes and sizes, from hot hatches to pickups, or lemans to sports. Each differs in its strengths, from handling, nitro power, acceleration and top speed. As you progress you can earn cash to upgrade any of these areas, allowing you to start out with your favourite style – be it manoeuvrability or speed – and then upgrade in the areas where you lack later. The basic cars are available from the outset, while special bonus cars such as Santa’s Sleigh, a Delorian (called LeDorian) or a Fruit Ninja buggy can be unlocked with both virtual and hard cash.
The tracks also come in a range of flavours, with beaches, classic grand prix, cliff top resorts, deserts and aztec ruins. There’s even a cameo from Halfbrick studios, with a Fruit Ninja themed track. Different cups play host to a variety of tracks, with some offering up the same track but in reverse, while others exhibit either day or night settings, or weather effects.
Despite their relatively small size compared to some of it’s rivals, Mini Motor Racing’s 22 tracks have a lot of scale to them. They might comprise of tight corners and short straights, but the level of detail and their structure make them feel very real and tangible. Almost like you are playing slot racing on a real model village. No where is this more apparent than the track Cliffs, with its tight zig-zagging coastal roads, and steep routes through the town.
Much like the classic Micro Machines, the viewpoint is more zoomed in than usual. It gives you a slightly claustrophobic feeling, making judging the next turn as much about memorising the track layout, as reflex. Thanks to the small and condensed track designs though, remembering their layout becomes second nature. Soon you’ll be able to drift around a track without so much of a scratch.
This is all possible thanks to great control options. You can opt for slider controls, tank, or toggle (both button based alternative), but the best is by far the wheel. In arcades, Super Sprint had a full sized steering wheel – in fact it looked more like a bus wheel – from which to control your car, and the idea is essentially the same here, albeit presented as a small wheel in the lower left corner.
In more realistic game such as Asphalt or Shift I’ve never like this option, and generally opted for the more realistic accelerometer mode. Those games though, have you race from either within the car or from a chase viewpoint. In Mini Motor Racing however, the camera is fixed from one angle, so you could be looking at your car from any angle at any moment in the race. For this reason, the wheel really is the only choice.
There is a marker on the wheel which represents the front of the car. This allows you to hold your thumb, or finger, on this marker and simply spin it around the wheel without the need to re-centre or take your thumb off the screen. Essentially, the car follows your input to the letter, pivoting around its front wheels allowing for quick and responsive turns and drifts, making the car feel like an extension of your hand.
Mini Motor Racing is of a very high calibre. Particularly with its presentation (I can’t stress enough how good this game looks). From the menus to the chunky cartoon cars, the highly detailed and well designed track layouts to the great music and sound, it all comes together to produce a highly polished product. Add to this the great controls and fun and highly replay-able tracks and career mode, and you almost have the best in its class. But, and it’s a pretty big but, the game does have one downside, and that is the lack of online multiplayer. Yes, you can hook up with up to three other racers via bluetooth or wifi, but if you want to race with people other than those in the immediate vicinity, then you are out of luck. My contact at the Binary Mill has assured me that multiplayer is in the works, and that the multiplayer code is online ready, so expect that to come in an update.
To me, online play for a game like is a huge draw, and omitting it in this first release could have a negative affect on sales. I for one would have preferred to delay the release and wait instead for the full featured game, with online play. Having said that, the single player game is strong enough to stand on it’s own two feet without online play, and I wouldn’t want you to miss it for the world.