Micro Machines has got a lot to answer. The brilliantly created table top racer from years gone by would have grabbed the attention of anyone who ever played it. You only have to look to the excitement that hit the world when it was confirmed that Codemasters were reigniting the classic for the modern day gamer, to understand the love many of us have for the franchise. But before that appears, there’s another table top fun racer to keep us busy, that of Table Top Racing World Tour. But can it jump on the back of the Micro Machines hype to deliver what we are craving? Or will it be left on the starting grid as Codemasters start to revive their mighty franchise engine?
Well, if you’re looking for something to tease your addictive nature, then Table Top Racing more than delivers.
Placing you in the hot seat of no less than 16 utterly cool, super miniaturised racing cars, Table Top Racing World Tour begs you to keep on playing until you’ve smashed and bashed your way round eight locations and across 32 different courses, all whilst competing for no less than 12 Championship trophies. In order to do so, you’ll need to race through 120 individual combat, pure racing, elimination, pursuit, time trial and hot lap events before grabbing top spot on all the podiums and being declared the ultimate table top racer.
The racing is hard and the racing is fast, at least once you’ve collected enough coins in order to upgrade your vehicle’s speed, acceleration, handling and armour stats, and there’s hardly a break in play as the events keep dropping into action, swiftly on the back of one another.
And once you’ve accomplished your podium goal, the action still doesn’t stop as 54 rather cleverly created special scenario events will have you heading back in for more, with limitations on car types and set objectives ensuring that your skills in all cars are completely on point. As you can probably tell, there is plenty of content included and you certainly won’t be finished with everything that the World Tour brings in just a couple of hours.
With a rather lovely visual style, bordering on the ‘toon’ and bringing some vibrant wonderful miniature worlds, and a banging soundtrack that drop 25 of the very best breakbeat tunes that Juice Recordings can muster, initial thoughts concerning this lovely little arcade racer are great.
But whilst the racing is fast, frenetic and full on, there is a little spark, that could see the game really shine, just missing. Granted, the addiction is there, and I’ve played very little else since first going hands on with World Tour as it just keeps dragging me in for more, but the very repetitive nature of running through the same tracks, and the same variations, over and over again, may take its toll on some. The very apparent rubber banding that is in place, and the hugely aggressive nature of the AI opponents may also annoy a few, especially when you find yourself deep into a multi-race championship, only for your dreams to be burnt in a flash. But then, without that rubber banding or with a slightly less enthusiastic computer model in place, it may just lose that addictive one more go attitude it brings.
Those small complaints are pretty much my only gripes with Table Top Racing though. I can’t for one moment complain about the visual or audio styles that Table Top brings as they are both delightful and hard hitting. Graphically, and whilst it isn’t going to blow you away, and even though the tracks themselves are a little hit and miss, the playful cartoony squashed style of the well imagined cars is delightful and does the job intended. The humorously named vehicles – Fauxrari, Zomg-A, Baguetti anyone? – come straight out of the Super Cars II Nigel Mainsail, Ayton Sendup and Crashhard Banger school of humour. For those moments alone, this should be utterly embraced.
Each of the vehicles has its own unique stats range too, and you’ll need to utilise most of the cars in order to fully complete everything thrown at you. For instance, you may think that a fully upgraded Baguetti in the Supercar class would suffice for most events and tracks, but its slightly less than perfect handling and poor drifting ability sees it struggle at times. Seeing as you need to place in the top three of every event in order to progress, or at least hit one of three set times or points totals in the events which rely on skill, you’ll quickly understand why each and every car is in place.
The tracks are pretty much what we want to see in a game of this type too. The well placed Yo Sushi branded circuits are pretty much front and centre, seeing you race round the restaurant tops with moving carousels in place and super secret shortcuts ready to be found. But we also find ourselves heading back to the 80s, racing round junk yards, chop-shops, across the beach and up on the winter slopes of a ski resort. Each locale comes with numerous track layouts too and even though the variation between them isn’t the biggest, they do allow for a bit of track recollection in order to see you succeed.
But Table Top Racing World Tour isn’t just about the cars, the tracks and the events. It’s got weapons too you know and they ensure it doesn’t ever become too stale. Missiles, acid pools, nitro boosts, freeze shots and more allow each race to be totally different from the next. You’ll have to pick up the weapon unlocks during each race, and sitting at the back of the pack may see you miss out as the AI grab first dibs, but it’s these weapons which really allow the fun to flow, especially in multiplayer.
Doubling up each weapon’s power can also be done by storing up unused weapons, and there is most definitely a tactical edge required should you wish to place on top of that podium because saving up weapons and knowing exactly when to hit them out is key.
Wheel weapons further build on the weaponry side of things and should you have obtained enough coins to unlock them, the likes of Bling wheels will double your earned credits, Boing rims allow you to jump, whilst further ones give you a little shielding or pacifism options. There’s even a full drifting set available should you wish to go down that route.
So, solo wise and it’s quite clear that there is plenty of content, all with a reasonably high level of quality included. But then we also have the multiplayer, something else that Table Top Racing works well with. As you would expect, the online multiplayer allows you to bring in everything that you know and love from the solo campaign and Special events, but with the pesky AI replaced by those of a more human nature. Whether that’s a good thing or not is open to debate, as if you thought the AI were a little robust and heartless in their nature, you ain’t seen nothing when compared to those in the online world.
It may still be early days in regards the population of racers in Table Top Racing across the Xbox Live service that powers it, but initial signs are good. No matter whether you decide to create your own private rooms for just friends, perhaps ramping up the number of laps and removing all powerups to instead focus on coin hunting, or if you decide to join a public room and let others dictate the pace of play, the online components within Table Top Racing are as smooth and precise as that found offline.
It’s a massive shame however that there is no option to play split screen against local mates, or even populate your races with AI to flesh things out a bit. The latter especially is very much needed as unless you manage to invite a number of friends to the party, there really is no fun with just racing around with a pretty empty track. But it is what it is and the online world will surely flock to a game that promises so much. Won’t it?
For Table Top Racing to really continue to shine further down the line though, then the developers at Playrise Digital will really need to keep on top of things going forward, if only to keep matters fresh. We’ve seen what can happen to games when games are loved and amended as things go forward – you need look no further than Rocket League to see how a simple premise can grow – and I’d love to see more tracks, more cars, more race types and even more variety in the weaponry in future months.
Whether that happens or not is anyone’s guess, but judging by the wording of the more than attainable achievements that are in place, I get the feeling the developers have plans already in place. Why else would they mention buying all the ‘original’ cars in the cheevo description?
Table Top Racing World Tour is already a hell of an addictive little racer, but its long term charm completely relies on the online community – something that past history proves is a tricky proposition. It’s currently got just enough variety and draw to keep you going back for more, but it won’t be long before you find yourself exhausting everything the single player brings and that is when you’ll start looking for something extra. Should the online side really take off though, then, well, this could be a table top racer to challenge the very best.
Codemasters will need to be on top form with their new Micro Machines offering in order to win the table top war this time round.