Micro Machines is back! Regarded as an institution amongst local multiplayer connoisseurs, the series reboot is set to launch 21st April 2017. But first, a quick history lesson for those not fortunate enough to remember these games first time around.
Micro Machines was a series of games based upon the collectible toy car range that launched in the 1980’s. The first game was released in 1991 and the series featured four main entries, plus a number of spin offs, the last of which released back in 2006. An iOS and Android release came last year but for many, the announcement that Micro Machines World Series is arriving on Xbox One, PS4 and PC will feel like the reboot they were so craving.
The question now though is will it succeed? The gaming landscape has changed completely in the 10 years since the last release, dominated by online gaming and alternative business models. Free-to-play was virtually non-existent when the last Micro Machines game was released but has since made the migration from mobiles to consoles, particularly with MMORPGs. It is worth noting the free-to-play model with Micro Machines because the 2016 mobile release is just that. Nothing official has been announced regarding price yet though, but whichever route Codemasters decide upon the fans will be expecting a big game with the replayability cranked up to 11. Previous entries have offered a plethora of cars to choose from; the last entry contained over 750 cars in the end. Or boats, but many a veteran will tell you just how badly they handled on the water levels. Especially when you had eight player controlled ones careening round the pond.
That was the beauty with the early Micro Machines games, particularly Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament in that they had local multiplayer for up to eight people. The cartridge for the SEGA Mega Drive had two ports built into it, known as a J-Cart, meaning two extra controllers could be plugged in. Two players shared one controller between them which meant you were only really limited by having seven other friends rather than having seven other consoles by today’s standards.
It is therefore imperative that World Series retains that local multiplayer mode, as for most people these are where their treasured memories of this game stem from. I’m pleased to say that it does keep the feature, but only for 4-players this time around. On top of this though is 12-player online multiplayer which should cause absolute mayhem if you can get a full lobby. In a good way. This is a great move by Codemasters to include both multiplayer options as they could have quite easily just kept it local. But by adding online it really opens the game up as Micro Machines worked so well as a party game because it was never the same person winning. The gameplay was simple enough meaning anyone had a chance of winning at the start line.
Some of the multiplayer game modes include some team-based objectives. Hopefully this means that your group of four mates sat in the same room can take on another group of four. Only this time you won’t be huddled round a CRT monitor. It will be in glorious HD.
How those visuals hold up has yet to be seen though, as so far there has been no gameplay released. This also poses the concern of where the camera will be as Micro Machines was instantly recognisable for having one fixed camera viewing from above. This view was put to use in the Elimination game mode also, as touching the edge of the screen meant you lost a point. Whilst Elimination mode has been confirmed for the new release, nothing has been said on the camera angle. It may just be a given, but don’t take anything for granted. Many would argue that moving to a chase camera behind the cars would lose what made the gameplay so appealing in the first place.
My biggest concern though is that Micro Machines recently had a spiritual successor that went by the name Toybox Turbos, a game that passed a lot of people by when it released in 2014 and subsequently did not too well. Whether this was due to a lack of publicity, or if people had moved on from the franchise, remains unknown, but it does beg the question of how popular this new iteration will be. One thing Toybox Turbos did suffer from was not having the Micro Machines name, thus not having the iconic legacy to back it up. Had the licence been available for Toybox Turbos it’s fair to say it would have been used though and the game would have had much more scope and promise. The fact that it also released on last-gen consoles helped nobody as well.
So far though, from the announcement, things are looking good, many people are looking forward to the new release and all the nostalgia it will bring. Hopefully this translates into good sales for Codemasters and keeps the online lobbies full for a good while after release, which in turn will keep the support for the game running on.
To go back to the question posed at the start as to whether it will succeed or not, well, the jury is still out for the time being. I certainly want it to be a success because I plan on playing this on release day, and will challenge any and all opponents. There are a lot of positives to take away from the reaction to the announcement, with forums being filled with nostalgia and Codemasters would do well to keep the buzz high for the game by slowly releasing more information. The release window is already beginning to get crowded and it becomes easy to forget smaller games that do not keep themselves at the forefront of a gamers mind. The lack of gameplay for a game releasing in just over three months is a concern, but as long as it retains the areas that made the earlier games so treasured then the rose-tinted glasses we tend to wear can help see past the cracks.