There’s a resurgence of gaming nostalgia thanks to Nintendo’s NES and SNES Classic consoles, as well as Crash Bandicoot helping people remember better times. Gaming franchises long thought gone are getting a shot in the arm. Lilliputian Micro Machines has been one of the most frequently requested games for digital zombification. It is, unfortunately, something that probably should have stayed dead.
When Codemasters announced they’d be bringing Micro Machines back, I was giddy. Having one of the most preeminent racing game developers making one of the most beloved whimsical racers is the stuff of dreams. And just like the existential dread I face when I wake up every morning with the hard realisation that my own hopes and dreams have yielded little but disappointment, Micro Machines: World Series proves to be a crushing let-down.
Codemasters has tried to move the series into 2017, but they seem to have focused too hard on the wrong bits of modern gaming. For starters there’s no single player content to speak of, with little more than training or sad, unfulfilling races and skirmishes against AI to keep lone gamers content. The entire thing is made for online multiplayer. With the series roots entrenched in its same-screen multiplayer mayhem, that seems a worthwhile pursuit but its execution is lacking.
There are straightforward, fastest-to-the-end races, elimination racing, and a new Battle mode which features combative skirmishes and the likes of King of the Hill and Capture the Flag. You can party up with friends in any of these modes, and bots will fill up the empty spots meaning you never have to wait long to get into a game.
Mechanically, it’s actually pretty sound. In race mode all 12 of the vehicles – deliciously detailed diminutive cars, trucks, boats et al – handle much the same. Vehicles are loose and floaty, just as they really should be given their lack of mass, and it makes for some fun driving as you try to pilot the puny pocket racers around corners. The levels themselves are all delightful, made up as they should be of much larger real world objects.
There’s a little Hasbro licencing at play this time too, adding a bit of grounded reality through the inclusion of authentic toys like NERF guns, Hungry Hippos and Ouija boards scattered about that intermingle with playing cards, arch lever files, pretzels and beer coasters, casino chips and other baubles that make up the periphery. One of the mini cars is even from G.I Joe.
Unfortunately there are just 10 such vehicles on offer, with a few bespoke stages for Battle mode. Those stages try to differentiate the vehicles a little, giving each of the twelve tracks a bit of personality. They’ve got repeatable catchphrases, and their own unique offensive and defensive abilities – including an ultimate with a charge up and cool-down period. It all starts to seem like it’s borrowing a bit from the Hero Shooter Design Manual here.
And, because this is a game that’s out in 2017, it contains blind loot boxes because of course it does. Levelling up earns loot boxes which can be used to make aesthetic changes to the pint-sized toys. It’s an ill fit, because after reaching level 10 you’re allowed to join into the ranked matchmaking, but it’s a seasonal and event-based affair with days between events.
The real pity here is that somewhere, deep down, there’s a decent game – but even at its reduced price, its anaemic content and online multiplayer focus makes it hard to recommend.
Last Updated: July 5, 2017
It looks nice, and it’s fun to play for a short while – but it’s such a pallid production that it just feels like a shadow of the game it could have been. Micro Machines deserves better.