The top-down racer is an old genre, and one that has been much neglected in recent years. That is starting to change though.
First came Art of Rally, with its beautifully stylised world and testing gameplay. Now we have Circuit Superstars. This multi-class mini-racer arrived with little fanfare, but is a gorgeous game that everyone should try.
Sliding into action
Let's start with the gameplay. Racing on Circuit Superstars is simple to learn but hard to master.
It's got a track limits rule that will stop you cutting every corner without causing you to pull your hair out when hotlapping, and the range of cars to race in is enormous.
From F1-style monsters of both past and present to a 911 GT3, a Fiat 500, and even a truck, you can race around in pretty much anything with four wheels.
Once you get used to the top-down view and steering left to get your car to go right, you can pick your way around the circuits pretty easily. But finding the fastest line is far from simple.
The best way to tackle the tracks is to slide the car into each corner, but beware! Most circuits have combinations of corners that mean your line needs to be different than expected. Be it an esses section you can practically straight-line or a late-apex hairpin that comes right off the back of a tight corner, the track design leads naturally to a challenging but enjoyable race experience.
Each car feels different too. The F1 cars are nimble where the trucks are bulky and unresponsive. The Caterham-style car is tail-happy where the Fiat 500 is poised.
All that to say, this isn't just a throw-it-around arcade racer. The AI is strong, and will take some time to beat. Put your foot down with one wheel in the dirt and you'll be off in the barrier before you know it. It has the accessiblity of an arcade racer, but the skill gap that any good racing title needs.
A hot lappers dream
While the racing is good in Circuit Superstars, one of the best parts of the game comes from the time trials. Hotlapping the tracks is pure brilliance.
As a more arcadey racer there are plenty of different ways to approach the corners, and trying to perfect a full lap is almost impossible.
Our review code came with the Top Gear Time Attack DLC, where players can take on the famous Top Gear Test Track. With Romain Grosjean currently topping the leaderboard and plenty of big names up there inlcuding two-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick, there is plenty to take aim at!
While we couldn't get a full lap at Grosjean's speed, we are not too far from Lando Norris. If you put the time in there is definitely a faster lap than Romain's out there. We just couldn't string it all together.
The quick resets and beautiful graphics give the game that brilliant frustration that any hotlap challenge requires. Can you hook up a lap and beat our 31.504?
Circuit Superstars is the perfect hop-on-and-play racer. There isn't much of a career mode to speak of, but the AI are challenging to beat and as a result always satisfying to race against.
The best way to experience this game will be with friends. Similar to a Mario Kart style title, it is begging for group play to fully enjoy the contact-filled races and hard to master mechanics.
That said, if you are looking for a casual racing title to chase hotlap dominance you won't find much better than Circuit Superstars.
RacingGames Rating: 8/10