Depending on how old you are, you may or may not remember a little game called Micro Machines, based on the successful car toys at the time. Miniature scale cars and various vehicles were offered, with a strong eye on detail, the result being some wonderful car models. Naturally the videogame that followed it was based the familiar kart-racer style, which we have been inundated with since the 1990s. It would have some great novelty tracks, like a bathtub or a pool table, and generally played pretty fast and furious. Single player was never anything special, and it was only with a friend or group of friends that you could see a bit of that diamond in the rough.
Considering the title was released for basically every console (with the exception of the Dreamcast), it’s surprising that a new addition to the series has taken this long. Well there was a dang good reason for this, and in proving you can’t go home again, I approached this title with a little a fog of nostalgia and a little voice in my head reminding me of the fun a few of us had playing this.
Flash-forward to a very rude awakening. First off, Micro Machines v4 uses the StarForce copy-protection system, which can lead to some serious issues with both drivers and network security. You want to proceed a little carefully here. Next came the controls, and for the love of all the warm fuzzy things in the universe, I do not remember the kart racing being this unforgiving. The controls are pretty much the simplest out there, as you use the side arrows for turning and the top and bottom for accelerating and braking, and another key allocated for weapons. But simplicity aside, the controls set the trap for the punishment to begin.
If you miss one turn and fall off the track, GAME OVER. This turns the game into something old-school hard, not the pleasant, pixelated memories of my *ahem* youth. It’s akin to playing Ridge Racer all the time and then trying to play Gran Turismo. After many frustrating attempts, you slowly begin to re-learn how to skate these cars around the track. But to be honest, it’s not all that rewarding.
There is an online mode, though tellingly no one was online when I attempted to try it out. A construction set to make custom tracks is also included, although with the graphics such as they are, you won’t be spending a lot of time there. You’ll also find unlockable tracks and cars, which can prove frustrating as you finish the game without unlocking everything, and the only options are to play it again or trade cars online. And, as if the game’s issues stopped there, the sound is completely forgettable, with only the bare bones included.
All this is really a pity, as this game did have potential, especially since the license includes far more vehicles than just cars (planes, boats, etc.), all of which could have mixed-up the gameplay and made for a more engaging experience. One title that worked based using this formula, Toy Fighter for the Dreamcast, was quite a success and a lot of fun to play. But as it is, Micro Machines V4 takes a console kart racer, pumps it into the 3D realm with sub-par sound and graphics, and brings it to PC gamers in the very non-Dreamcast year of 2007. The biggest question I’m left with is “why?”
- Overall: 5
- Codemasters brought back one of the popular kart-racing games, but it hasn’t done much with it. Had they ironed out some issues (graphics, sound and gameplay) and gone the Xbox Live Arcade route, this might have worked. On PC, though, it falls completely flat.
— Phil Vollmer