Fun racer, sim with cartoonish looks, or something in between? Categorizing Circuit Superstars is not easy, but the title should appeal to fans of both genres – the top-down racer that has been in early access since March, has now been released for PC and Xbox One plus Series S/X and promises equal amounts of fun and challenge.

Circuit Superstars’ first impression might make it look like a relative of Micro Machines or GeneRally, but it is much closer to Art of Rally, which uses a similar concept: Cartoon-style graphics, a top-down camera view and simple controls make the game very accessible, although the camera view takes some time to adjust to - sometimes it is hard to see what is coming up, or you might lose track of your car if there are multiple vehicles in close quarters.

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If you expect to be fast without using the brake or drifting through corners, you are very much mistaken, however: Circuit Superstars uses some sim elements that reward a clean line, a controlled approach to using the throttle and even good strategy. Drop a wheel into the gravel or grass next to the track and you might find yourself spinning sooner rather than later, and maybe even in the barriers – which will not only cost time, but inflict damage to your car as well.

The damage system may be simple, but too many off-track excursions are not something players should make a habit of. Also included are fuel and tire usage, as well as pit stops where your vehicle’s condition will be restored. The amount of time spent in the pits is an important element, especially in longer races that appear in some championships in Grand Prix Mode – do you take less fuel to leave the pits earlier, or do you play it safe and wait until the tank is completely filled? These elements can be switched on and off depending on the player’s skill level and preference, which makes getting into the game easier but adds some depth for advanced players.

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Depth is also added via the game’s content: Twelve tracks, two of which are rallycross circuits, another one has an RX variant, are available on release, as well as a dozen vehicles – from 50s sportscars and racing trucks to modern rally, GT and Formula cars, there is something for everybody. Each vehicle has its own characteristics and needs a different approach to drive.
The various game modes keep Circuit Superstars from getting boring as well: The aforementioned Grand Prix mode lets the player compete in various championships against the AI, in Free Play mode, players can set up races any way they want, or try and get a spot on the leaderboards in time trials. There is an online multiplayer as well to compete against human racers. Additionally, there are weekly time trial events, such as the one using the free Top Gear Test Track DLC upon release allowing players to try and beat the times of famous names in racing like Romain Grosjean or Jimmy Broadbent.

Circuit Superstars is a great alternative for the sometimes stressful SimRacing schedule. The game does demand a certain amount of dedication, however, which makes it interesting to arcade racers as well as SimRacing experts. Developer Original Fire Games and publisher Square Enix have already announced that Circuit Superstars will be available on Playstation 4/5 and Nintendo Switch as well – and new content is in the works, too.

If you are looking to race in scenarios that are little bit less serious than your usual sim racing endeavours, Circuit Superstars may be the perfect fit for you: Even though it looks cartoony, it is far from a pure arcade racer - which means it is likely going to awaken your ambition to lay down the best lap possible fairly quickl