Sure, the cute design may initially place arcade-style cornering abilities to the forefront of your expectations, but push through the contrasting handling, racing-line memorisation and strategy calls and the sense of achievement is palpable.
That hasn’t stopped the diminutive team at Original Fire Games from continuing to tinker, however.
A road map of additions and changes was discussed at the start of the year, and this week (24th March) sees a ‘Spring Patch’ that delivers a suite of changes including – but not exclusive to – two new tracks (Speedopolis and Thunder Point), custom online lobbies and, crucially, new car contact physics.
We’ll start with the latter because even though on paper it sounds the least exciting, it provides the biggest change to gameplay.
Previously, especially noticeable on the higher difficulty levels, your computer-controlled rivals would be able to push you out of the way with relative ease. In a way, as they should, but it could get a little frustrating when you’ve made a Verstappen-esque block pass, hit the apex, only to be nudged wide.
Now, however, each vehicle features a Teutonic heft like closing the door on an Audi. There’s a satisfying thunk when hitting a fellow competitor – much harder to push aside.
This improves the quality of racing and if you are ahead then you are more likely to stay in control, and those behind can breathe a sigh of relief at not accidentally causing a pileup.
Appropriately, alongside this contact physics change, the Sprint Patch also adds a second oval circuit and a new Touring Car.
In the real world, this class of motorsport is especially known for robust racing action, thanks to the wheels being covered and a slightly lackadaisical approach to driving standards penalties.
The new addition looks aggressive with its flared arches and giant rear wing, the miniaturised TCR style ramping up the cute factor to Star Wars Porg levels.
To fit alongside the latest vehicle is a new Grand Prix Trophy, too. A single-player championship, the Touring Car Championship includes four races and the five difficulty levels – winning said Trophy unlocking new livery designs.
Once you’ve completed that, there are two new circuits. These are available in offline single-race modes, online multiplayer and both feature within a new Stock Car Cup Trophy, utilising the vehicle added back in December of last year.
Speedopolis is more of a rectangle than an oval, and like its Bullseye Speedway brethren, it’s set up for close pack racing and slipstream duels. Throw in the beefier contact mechanics and penalties for wall-riding – yes, we had to, ahem, ‘check’ those – this is a lot of fun.
But, the main star is undoubtedly Thunder Point. Reminiscent of the Road America and visually similar to existing tracks such as Sugar Hill, it’s longer, tricky and a more rewarding challenge.
Ramp up the AI difficulty level, or compete online against the fiercely competitive community, and this venue is testament to the dexterity you’ll need to pick up any solid results.
It also highlights the wonderfully serious nature of this game nestled beneath the approachable aesthetics. As you drive over the slight rise on the main straight in the Stock Car the rear wheels spin up slightly as the weight shifts.
It’s that simulated attention to detail you do not expect at first from this game. It’s also what makes it the India Pale Ale of the genre.
You need to acquire the taste, put the hours in, and once you are acclimatised, the IPA will wash down a Bundo Chaat with suitable aplomb. You can forget a stale larger and a chicken korma, this is where it’s at.
This appeal will be further heightened with the addition of custom private lobbies – something the enthusiastic fanbase has been requesting since launch. The game lends itself so well to network-connected racing already because of the fuel and strategy options baked-in since day one.
Now, you can invite your friends to a room and tweak the settings, including slipstream strength, if contact is switched on and even tyre wear rates. Simply, there’s everything you need to concoct the dream race scenario.
In this pre-release state, this stylised simulator took our online racing in its stride, with Traxion.GG’s John Munro easily able to thrash me over a series of events, despite me getting in practice ahead of time. Plus ça change…
The Spring Patch doesn’t make Circuit Superstars’ driving any more accessible, thankfully, but it does continue to refine the moreish, rewarding, simulator driving experience even further. The private lobbies will help the audience flourish too – now, who is up for organising some esports leagues?
The new Spring Patch for Circuit Superstars will be a free update to all existing owners on PC, PlayStation and Xbox on 24th March 2022. A Nintendo Switch version and further updates will follow later in the year.