Who didn’t spend hours as a kid driving toy cars across the lounge, along the coffee table, through the kitchen, over the dog and up the stairs? In the early nineties, the fledgling Codemasters bought tabletop racing to life with their Micro Machines game. The top down racer featured toy vehicles and circuits across breakfast tables, backyards and other domestic locations.
It was a massive hit, spawning four sequels (ignoring the running spin-off, Micro Maniacs) finishing up with Micro Machines V4 in 2007. Since then the series’ publisher, Codemasters, has become synonymous with development racing games. The F1, Dirt and Grid racing games are all from the Codemasters stable.
After a decade’s absence, Micro Machines are back with Micro Machines World Series.
The visuals are fair, eschewing the photo-realism that I think would better suit this modern incarnation for cartoony graphics that don’t look too far removed from the original.
The vehicle handing takes a bit of getting used to. You are racing top-down, so you need to turn your Micro Machine relative to its direction. Once you’ve got it, you are soon power sliding across table tops.
As well as Micro Machines, the similarly Hasbro-owned NERF guns have been smuggled into the game as power-up weapons. The plastic pellet-firing guns are joined by roof mounted hammers, shotguns and lasers, all helping players get the edge over their opponents.
There’s a good selection of vehicles to choose from, each with their own handling characteristics, from the heavy tank to the slippery hovercraft. The vehicles can be cosmetically upgraded using Loot Boxes earnt during play. You can change colours, body shapes and taunts to suit your style.
There are three different types of play. There’s the arena-style battle mode deathmatches, the more conventional races and elimination mode, where vehicle that get left behind find themselves out of the race.
Micro Machines is geared up for online play. Solo players can partake in all the game has to offer on their own via the skirmish mode. But with no career or any real single-player meat, you are going to get bored really quick.
Games are played across four event modes. Special events add modifiers to matches, quickplay gets you straight into online matchmaking, ranked matches (which are unlocked at level 5) and the local skirmish mode.
The absence of a two-player split-screen mode is puzzling. Whilst the skirmish mode does allow you to play local multiplayer elimination mode (i.e. all players need to be on the same screen) and battle mode, this isn’t enough, coming across as more of an after-thought.
The problem with games that rely on online multiplayer (Star Wars Battlefront, I’m looking at you), is that unless there is a vibrant online community (usually fostered by compelling single-player content), the game is dead on arrival.
Thankfully, fans are embracing Micro Machines World Series. Whilst it may take a couple of minutes to matchmake each game, here in Sydney, anyway, I’m not having too much trouble trying to get a game. You are much better off playing online with friends than just randoms. But even that’s not the same as playing a game of “winner stays on”, split-screen, around the TV.
Despite the budget price, I can’t help feeling short-changed. A wanted to play a single-player campaign and I really wanted to play two-player split-screen, just as I used to.
Still, it’s a fun game and the vehicles handle themselves nicely around well-designed circuits. Micro Machines World Series is still the Micro Machines that you remember, albeit a rather light version of the classic game.