Hands up, who remembers Micro Machines? Keep your hands up if you remember the video games. Well, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Tinker Racers is part of the same series as the similarities are striking.
Yes, this is a top-down racing game but the aim isn’t to win; instead it’s simply to survive. As you race around the circuits, which are set within the average home environment, keeping ahead of the camera is crucial because if you drop out of shot, you die.
In each race you’ll need to score five points against your opponents to win. To score, you’ll need to outrun all of your opponents until they disappear off screen. However, your enemies work as a collective against you, in the sense that any one of them can score by knocking you off the track or racing ahead so the camera leaves you behind. Essentially, if you lose five points it’s game over.
Alongside this, your car’s integrity is represented by a percentage at the bottom of the screen. This will deplete if you collide with large objects or plummet off the edge of the track, as you would expect. If that percentage reaches zero, it’s also game over. You’ll know when you’re at risk of this, as an irritating beeping will start by way of a warning.
Tinker Racers features a Campaign mode, however that’s in a very loose sense of the word. What this is, in fact, is a series of similar circuits that gradually introduce a few new elements, such as speed boost arrows, jumps to land and obstacles to avoid. As you progress you’ll have more opponents to fend off which makes things more challenging, and also more likely that you’ll be rammed off the edge of the track and into oblivion.
These racing circuits play out over three locations: the bedroom, kitchen and office. You essentially play variations of the same track in each setting, and as a result it gets repetitive fairly quickly. You will unlock “dark mode” around halfway through the campaign, which pretty much does what it says on the tin. Here, you’re challenged to race in the pitch dark, with only your headlights to light the way. Think of it as the equivalent of a hard mode.
Alongside the campaign you can play in Free-for-all where there are no scores to worry about, the single race mode where it’s all about racing to win for a change, and time attack which sees you trying to smash times set by the developers whilst aiming for a new personal best.
Once you’ve cleared the tutorial at the start of the game, you’ll unlock multiplayer for all of the above modes on all tracks in the campaign. This will allow you to play with up to three other people locally, but there’s no online functionality unfortunately.
In terms of controls, the setup is nice and simple. “A” is used to accelerate, “B” to brake and the left thumbstick to steer. Your tiny car will automatically slide which is good fun, and once again it’s very reminiscent of the series which quite clearly inspired it. Unfortunately, on occasion you’ll go into a tailspin and find it impossible to recover before the camera leaves you behind.
On balance, Tinker Racers is a pretty easy game, especially if you avoid the dark mode, however as the races eventually get more crowded it swings wildly the other way. Instead of feeling challenging it ends up becoming quite frustrating. As there are so many rival racers bashing you about, it feels that you have little to no control over the outcome. Not only that, but after each jump there’s a seemingly random chance that you’ll flip over which will cost you a point. This can make the game feel very unfair at times.
Unfortunately Tinker Racers doesn’t look great either; instead it’s incredibly simplistic. This is reflected in the car and track designs too, which won’t do much to inspire you. Given all this, it will only set you back £4.19 meaning it’s worth a punt, especially if you were a fan of Micro Machines back in the day.
Tinker Racers on Xbox is a fun little game despite its limitations. However, when all is said and done, it doesn’t do enough to escape from the shadow cast by the game which inspired it.