Micro Machines V4
Back In 1991 millions of Britons sang along to Bryan Adams' warbly ballad Everything I Do, clapped eyes upon Mr Blobby for the first time, walked around in what we then thought to be fashionable puffa jackets - and if you were lucky, tried out Codemasters' new top-down racer Micro Machines, based on the toy cars of the same name. Eventually appearing on 15 different platforms in seven different versions, the series was a huge success with its frantic racing, brilliantly conceived microenvironments and excellent multiplayer.
Now, 15 years on from the original's release, Codemasters have released v4 of the series. Packed with the same top-down racing, they may have thought that they'd stumbled across an old-school title ripe for updating, but as we've seen before, revisiting an old classic isn't always a clear-cut formula for success. If you're a fan of the series, you'll instantly notice that the first thing to go missing is the cartoon-style character selection screen, replaced with, well nothing actually, as developers Supersonic have just done away with this entirely. And so begins the long list of problems with the diminutive racer's latest outing.
It's So Weeeee!
The wildly inventive, small-scale tracks have always been a strong point of the series, with tracks offering the chance to race round kitchen surfaces and pool tables while avoiding obstacles that only a 4cm toy car would find problematic - salt spills, glue drops and pool balls. Although Micro Machines v4 does offer a varied selection of tracks complete with their own tiny obstacles, most simply don't feel anywhere near as inventive and colourful as you'd expect from the series. Old favourites like the pool table make a welcome return, but some levels such as the sewers and the museum feel especially lacking in terms of content and polish.
Graphically, things aren't exactly up to scratch either. Despite using the engine from Supersonic's previous title Mashed, things somehow don't look as good as they did in that two-year-old title. Cars are crudely modelled with little to no detail, the lo-res textures show a lack of care in the conversion and the water texture looks so bad that we at first mistook it for a graphical glitch. Winning levels rewards you with cars, of which there are 750 to collect but you can't choose any to use in races and they serve no real purpose other than to offend your eyes with their blocky design.
The game consists of a variation of three basic modes; races, timed challenges and battles (who can get to eight points first by destroying or beating their rivals). Imaginative power-ups are liberally sprinkled around the level too - from our favourite, the carmounted hammers, to health boosts.
However, while three different difficulties are on offer, even on the easiest settings, the single-player isn't as simple as you'd expect Pushing and shoving matches should be avoided as you always seem to come off worse, and winning can sometimes feel a bit random, like when a pool ball shoots out of the bottom of the screen, inadvertently propelling someone onto victory. More worrying is when your Al opponents just appear to give up completely, their engine note lowering in your ears until they disappear off the bottom of the screen for no apparent reason. Supersonic don't appear to have done much to sort out the camera issues from Mashed either, with your view of the road ahead becoming tactically non-existent once you're in the lead, putting you at a massive disadvantage for being good.
Of course, these sort of titles are designed ith multiplayer in mind, and things start to up once you've managed to convince mates to join you, with the friendly tition egging things along and proving the whole experience. And if you n't got enough joypads (or mates), 4 offers both LAN and online play, ully enabling you to play against ne else at all times.
Unfortunately, the enjoyment to be had playing against others doesn't even begin to compensate for the other low points, which is hugely disappointing when you consider the pedigree of the series (the last two PC versions both garnered 90%+ review scores). Amazingly enough, MMv4 manages to accomplish the feat of being less fun to play and look at than the developer's other title, Moshed (which is two years old). If it's multiplayer automotive giggles you're after, FlatOut 2's party mode is far superior. Like Mr Blobby and Bryan Adams, this series is best consigned to the history vaults.
Download Micro Machines V4
With over 50 tracks and tons of cars to unlock, this racer packs in a lot of extras. The circuits are broken up into different modes--racing, battle, checkpoint, and time attack. None of these end up being fun, though, because of the janky camera--which zooms in and out at the most inconvenient times--and fluctuating difficulty.
The game's definitely for kids, but it shouldn't have a problem frustrating gamers of any age.
If you like you're racing title a little fast and loose, boy do I have something to tell you. Micro Machines V4 is that rare style of racing title that combines white knuckle, reckless driving with a creative, wacky collection of race courses all while racing vehicles barely bigger then your thumbnail.
In Micro machines, you can play through the single player adventure, hop online and race against others or play wireless head to head. As you play through the single player game, you can unlock other vehicles which are collected and can be traded with other players online. What's kind of cool is the fact that the race courses take place in or around a house, you can run up a counter, jump across to an ironing board and then into a set of drawers. All of this while trying to get far enough ahead of your opponents to score a point or knock them off of the track. In the end it all comes down to scoring points, if you can accumulate enough points before the other racers (A.I. or human) then you get to move on to the next race.
Yes, I know this is one of those games that really cater to a specific type of gamer; fortunately I am one of those gamers. And while I don't care for traditional racing games, I really enjoy those wacky racing titles that feature combat and shortcuts and such. Well, Micro machines doesn't really have the combat of a Twisted Metal, or the shortcuts of a 'Rush'? title, but it does feature just enough of these elements to keep me interested. Power ups can be collected in order to shoot your rivals, but it really only slows them down (sure I know you could potentially destroy another racer, but it happens so infrequently), and shortcuts seem to be more limited to how daring you are in order to take a turn by jumping the corner. In fact I experienced my best success when incorporating the two, pick up a power up, shoot an opponent, and then race off ahead of them. No auto-catch up feature in this title.
Sure the online racing is fun and in order to complete your collection of 750 CARS! You may want to play against others in a nice way, because these are the same people who you can trade vehicles with in order to get all of the Micro machines.
But when all is said and done, the game is truly for those players that obsess over things like collecting 750 cars and deciphering the effectiveness of all the weapons. It is best played in short doses because of its inability to hold the average player's attention for no longer then 30 or 40 minutes at a stretch.