Mini Motor Racing EVO is an overhead racing game that’s a kin to the single screen arcade racers of the 80s. The title is apt and descriptive, because you’re driving around in miniature vehicles. Its a beautiful game with a lot of diverse locales, fitting music, fun and challenge all rolled into one. Its tough to get anything more into this package, but Mini Motor goes the extra mile with a map editor and online or network multiplayer. Its also a game that uses its licenses admirably from games like Team Fortress 2, Portal 2 and to my amazement Fruit Ninja.
The game has two major control schemes, both of which play excellent with a controller or keyboard and mouse. The first controller feels alien, yet its so right. Point the analog stick the way you want to go, much like non racing games. They still have a more typical control scheme of left and right to steer, but pointing the stick plays a lot better, there’s no overshooting your vehicle’s angle.
The driving does take a bit of time to get used to. Your vehicle can turn on a dime, and often you’re going so fast that you’ll leave skid marks with every turn. Letting off the accelerator will put you at a dead stop almost immediately. There is no momentum in this game, unless you’re pushing the gas. There’s also no reverse, but that’s the side effect of being able to turn your car without hitting the gas.
Like the majority of racing games, you also have a nitro button and in this game, it feels a lot different. You have blocks of nitro. Press the nitro button once to use a block and this nitro cannons you forward at a reckless pace. Its total risk or reward with this nitro boost and you’ll need it to overtake other vehicles that outmatch yours. Nitro canisters always appear on the track at random to give you an extra nitro block as long as you’re under your maximum. You can also pick up cash on the track as well.
Mini Motor Racing has three difficulty campaigns. You start on easy and then after a few cups, you’ll unlock the next difficulty. These difficulties have a series of cups, each cup has four races. When you come in third place or higher of all races in the cup, it will unlock the next cup for you. Of course some cups can last twelve races, so its not limited to four. The cups transition smooth from one to the next and you can play any previous race.
As for the races themselves, they’re brief on closed circuit courses that are only around a minute for three or four laps. I say brief, because they’re still a quick shot of fun and never overstays its welcome. The races do get longer as you proceed further into what feels like it could be a long game. At two hours in, I haven’t completed all of the easy beginners championship races. You race against five other cars for most of the game, but you do start out against one, two then three competitors and so on. With more aggressive racers, it can become hazardous to even start a race. Faster vehicles can ram into you and turn you around before the first turn.
The cars feel heavy, you can ram someone and push them around. While the game hardly has realistic physics, the dirty play physics are great. Ramming someone out of your way or spinning them with such tight quarters is always a joy that other racing games have forgotten about. With the racers being mini, it becomes a feat to spin someone around rather than just pushing them. That can come back to haunt you. Any pile of cars becomes dangerous as they push right into you rather than dodge you. This is geared for the arcade, rather than realism. Its tough to avoid pile ups at the first turn.
These races all have themed environments and music. Vernice city streets near waterways. A port full of shipping containers. The wilds of Africa through a river next to hippos. Racing on a Mayan temple. At a yellow sand beach across a bridge that dips into the water. Its all bright, colorful, eye catching and makes the game more fun.The soundtrack is diverse and good even if its generic, its all still fitting. Its rare, but tracks can go indoors or under bridges where the overlying areas become transparent. The developers made the game dynamic, eclectic and shows the effort put in.
To get longevity out of the courses, you will be racing on a lot of the courses a few times, but with a twist. Some races reverse the track. Other events are at night, or at dusk. The largest twist when you do the same race in a different cup is a literal one. The game will shift the perspective of the track. It helps to keep things interesting on what would otherwise be the same race for the forth time. The mini map stays the same, so what is north on the mini map could be southeast on the track itself. There are a few objects to bump into on each track. You can run down cones, knock over tire stacks and it all feels good to interact and mess up the course a little.
Team Fortress 2 and Portal 2 tracks are a big appeal of the game and they do make good uses of their respective franchises. You have Helen’s voice in the Team Fortress 2 and the sentries voice from Portal 2. Portal 2’s level has a big portal at the end to bridge a gap from the end to the finish. The Team Fortress 2 map has a lot of indoor areas and I can best describe it as the race version of Badlands. I only encountered each track once, but the Fruit Ninja track is everywhere.
There is a large variety of vehicles. I keep calling them vehicles, because there are more than typical stock cars, derby cars, muscle cars and race cars, because in Mini Motor, you can drive as a police car, school bus, jeep and even an ambulance. The big buses can be dangerous with their top speed. It gives the game a lot of character and flare to be driving what you want.You’ll find plenty of vehicles unlocked from the start and they’re all free. The vehicles all have different skins to chose from, so you can even play as Herby the Love Bug.
Each of the vehicles has their own stats for acceleration, top speed, nitro and handling. These stats can be upgraded to a certain extent by purchasing upgrades with your race winnings. The higher the tier of upgrade, the more it will cost and you’ll need these upgrades to keep competing with higher levels of competition. The unfortunate part is that if you switch vehicles to one that you haven’t spent thousands on upgrading, there’s no way to be competitive in further races. At least you can take your cash earned from one vehicle and carry it over to a new vehicle. You can downgrade as well if you need to.
Upgrading never felt like I could instantly win, it always felt like a competitive challenge. Sure there are races where some cars are just geared toward that terrain and those curves, but for the most part everything was good enjoyable, neck and neck fun once I was past the first initial races.
There are quick race modes with all of the tracks you’ve unlocked and ones from Steam Workshop. You even have a track designer. I never expect much from a budget game’s level designers, but this is easy to use and you can create something good to play in a short amount of time, albeit dull and lacking from the main game. Clicking your mouse on angles and dragging the road to make the precise curve or angle you want. Investing more time would probably yield great results if you spend the time to place props down.
You can download tracks from the Steam Workshop, but what I really want is entire cups worth of tracks or the ability to make my own cups on top of tracks. A single racetrack is just too quick. Its the bread stick rather than a complete meal.
Mini Motor Racing EVO is a fantastic game for a dirt cheap price. Its a game for any fan of the overhead racing genre and a fun, enjoyable experience with challenge. At $5 its tough to argue with the price for a game with so much fun and content.