Chances are you haven’t heard of this game. It arrived on PlayStation 4 and PSVR last year with no fanfare, then released again on Steam with even less fanfare a few months ago. Here we are in September 2020, the weirdest and heaviest of years, and Mini Motor Racing X has reached arguably its most comfortable-fitting console: Nintendo Switch.
Okay, so it’s a fast-paced, arcade racer with light physics and various forms of weaponry, which will always put it up against the legendary Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but don’t let that dissuade you. While there are some minor similarities, Mini Motor Racing X feels more like if Mario Kart and Micro Machines had a baby. Yes, I’m aware of how weird that sounds. No, I couldn’t even begin to describe the logistics of how it would even happen. Let’s just move on, shall we?
The first thing you’ll notice is how smooth and fast everything is, once you get into your first race. You’ll take your slightly chunky-looking, almost chibi racing machines and have them speeding and bouncing around various short, sharp tracks. Interestingly, although the default view is top-down, you can switch to various chase cams and even a cockpit camera, in case you want to get really close to the action. And in case you want to vomit wildly, what with how bouncy the physics are in Mini Motor Racing X.
There is a surprising number of tracks available, too. From docks to a seaside town, from suburbia to an airport, from desert ruins to an alpine resort, there is plenty of variety and lashings of colour. There are day and night variants, as well as reverse runs to keep you racing for a rather long time. Considering how short each track is, it’s also ideal for a quick race while you wait for your coffee to brew, especially with its handheld potential on Switch and Switch Lite.
Whether you play docked on the TV, or you go the handheld route on Switch or its younger sibling the Switch Lite, Mini Motor Racing X is a smooth experience. There are almost no drops in framerate and the controls feel tight and responsive, which is absolutely necessary as you navigate the unrelenting circuits throughout the game. They really don’t give you time to breathe, which leads to one of the issues I had.
Some of the locations have rather awkward track design, with sharp corners and absolutely no room to use your Nitro boost. It often feels like you’re punished for using it, as it propels you into the nearest wall because there just isn’t enough of a straight to make the most of the speed boost. There are even times when the AI will simply barge through you, using their own Nitro, sending you flying and sometimes ruining your entire race.
This is because once an error is made (or forced), you really can’t catch up. There are times when the AI simply runs away with the win, even when you drive a perfect race. This happens on all difficulty levels too, even on easy there were times when one car would leave everyone for dust, including me. Even when I had a vastly upgraded car that should have obliterated any opponent on normal difficulty, let alone the easiest setting. It’s a very inconsistent experience, at times.
These issues aside, Mini Motor Racing X can be tremendous fun during races. In standard mode, races across all modes are based purely on driving and careful use of Nitro. In “X” mode, the addition of one-use weapons, randomly assigned at the end of each lap, makes things a little more chaotic – but in a good way. There are tornadoes, missiles, landmines and even a throwable wrench that bounces off the scenery, all of which can win or lose a race.
On top of all the racing, developer The Binary Mill has also added an extra game mode: Bumper Ball. But let’s call it what it is, shall we? It’s a Rocket League clone, pure and simple. A bad one, unfortunately. The bouncy physics and wild AI makes it a really awkward experience, and rarely a fun one.
Despite this, and despite its AI issues, Mini Motor Racing X has plenty of content with all its tracks and their variants, plus an impressive roster of vehicles that can be unlocked and upgraded with race winnings. Above all, it’s a fast, frantic and fun little racer.
Simple, fast gameplay
X Mode shakes things up
Some awkward track design
Inconsistent, unbalanced difficulty
Bumper Ball is a poor version of Rocket league