Published on July 23rd, 2012 | by Nichomaxwell0
A Review of Micro Machines: Were those toy cars more fun to play with in a video game, or in real life?
Year: 1991 // System: NES // Publisher: Camerica // Developer: Code Masters // Genre: Racing; Vehicular Combat // Atmosphere: Your Backyard
>>>Yeah, I’m just going to put the question in the header to rest…the answer is real life.
Okay, okay, I get it. Micro Machines is ranked at #26 on IGN’s Top 100 NES Games list, it’s got stunning graphics, allows you to relive your dream as a kid when you raced your toy cars in the dirt, yadda yadda yadda,this game is a throbbing wart of discontent!
All right, all hard feelings aside, I actually thought that Micro Machines for the Nintendo was cool. In fact, it was really, really cool. You could race nine different types of micro vehicles on nine different palettes? You took on a whopping 24 circuits, all purposely arranged, and that’s NOT including bonus time attack stages in the monster truck? You could choose from 11 different character faces, which don’t impact your overall performance, but hey! You could be one of those happy, bouncy, animated faces! And did I forget to mention that the soundtrack is absolutely kicking? I could listen to those beats loop all day, no matter how short the actual riffs are. That’s just some sweet, rockin’ BGM…which politely doesn’t play as you concentrate on beating the snot out of your opponents on the carefully designed racetracks.
You see, I love this whole game…as a concept, and they honestly do a good job at convincing you that you’re driving a certain vehicle. While the super-fast sports cars and Formula One (GASP!) racers roll at high speed yet slip and slide all over the place, the heavy helicopters and tanks take on less corners but are harder to turn and, therefore, more prone to run into stuff. So the differences in all of the different micro machines that you can drive- the cars, jeeps, tanks, ATV’s, boats, and the much-feared “warriors”- are fantastically done up. Also, the tracks…are pretty much what I should have made as a kid, because making tracks for my toy cars was totally my thing. But keep in mind that I was an only child, so if you’re looking at my review weirdly, then…yeah…I needed a way to entertain myself…
But yeah, making tracks on the breakfast table with cheerios and using spilled milk and orange juice as obstacles? Turning the pool table into a grand prix where you raced your car along wooden sides and used the pockets as warp zones? Bobbing and weaving your way through a disheveled checkers board? I mean, DANG! Someone tells me that whoever was the head brain on this game had himself quite the inventive childhood.
But there was definitely something that troubled me about the entire mechanics behind this whole contraption…
How the $*%& were those micro machines in motion?
I mean, they’re Micro Machines!!! They’re not RC cars. They certainly don’t have magnetic bottoms that allow them to move across an electronic track! You never see hands moving them around! How are they going then?! Of course, this whole thing could be stop motion…like, really meticulously recorded, surprisingly fluid, stop-motion. That in itself is a preposterous thought because I don’t believe stop motion was a thing in 1991…and even if it was, it was a thing that hadn’t caught on yet…
But maybe that’s the point. Just like how in R.C. Pro-A.M. the fantasy of racing R.C. cars ARMED WITH MISSILES was realized, so was the fantasy of racing your micro machine vehicles hands-free through this aptly named racer. So in summation, this was every 8 year old boy’s dream. And honestly, for a game with such a simple concept, it was highly polished with a lot of color and intriguing character profiles even if they’re were just there to give you a face to work with. For one, they had the whole diversity move down…you had your whites, your African Americans, that one Asian boy who looked incredibly smart, and of course that pretty blonde girl whose name was Cherry…yeah, I mean, if you’re 13 (or you work for Thoseguy), you’re not gonna let that one go…
SO while this is a beautiful game with great music, a fully realized concept in racing different types of micro machines with different types of styles, and a lot of personality…it’s…extremely…sinful to play. And no, I don’t mean that in a “so sinful it’s tempting” sort of way. I mean that in a “it’s so sinful STAY AWAY” sort of way. Don’t get me wrong, you need to play this game if you were that guy who loved collecting or racing anything along the lines of Matchbox, Hotwheels, the M.M. toys…heck, the whole shelf which displays the progression of levels speaks to the heart of the toy car collector, through and through (and believe me, there ARE collectors out there for toy cars…just saying…).
But this game will drive you nuts when you actually try to race. It’s extremely hard, and not in all the right ways either. It’s too easy to lose control of your vehicle and wind up scrunched against a waffle or 9 ball that you didn’t see there just a couple of seconds earlier. Although the Formula One and sports cars and there to convey a strong sense of speed (which they do), obstacles still pop out a little too quickly, meaning you do have to play each level at least twice before you have the layout down in your head. The good news is that you don’t have to win every race in order to keep going…but the bad news is that, unlike in R.C. Pro-AM, you can’t just finish in the top 3 and move on that way. It’s either 1st or 2nd, or you lose a life.
Yes, you do start out with three, and that’s nice, and you can earn more through the Monster Truck pond rally courses…which are absolutely ridiculous. Your odds of making it all the way around those courses…unless you save-state infinitely or you’re a Micro Machines racing pro…are 10:1 in favor of The Game. Between the tight clusters of irritating hedges and super-thin pathways on the water puddles, you can’t just win, but you also can’t leave soon enough! It’s disgusting that you die as much as you do in trying to get around, but when you give up, it’s mind-boggling that they don’t take you out for making enough mistakes or allowing you to quit early! Seriously, that’s how rough the monster truck courses are! They were so ridiculous, I wanted an auto-fail for those specific courses! Imagine that. So the lesson here is that…you start with three lives. Good luck earning the rest.
Memorizing course layouts will certainly aid you, but even so, you’re chances of messing up particular parts of even the early courses are strong, just because you need to take one specific groove, and your loose handling machine is liable to go one of three ways, even if you’re accurate in your input of commands. Yes, this gives your vehicle a lifelike persona…and the whole point of the game is to give you realistically handling vehicles in childhood settings. But while this game may be for kids, it may take those “kids” until they’re adults to finally deliver all 24 levels the whooping they rightfully deserve.
One little thing stands out to me and somewhat ticks me off. The kids, which you select to go up against, will fall out of competition, prompting you to invite more of the other avatar faces into the fray. Okay, so you get new faces, but each face doesn’t have his or her car. In spite of the faces, you will always have your car, a green car (the best one), a blue (second banana), and an orange or pink (slash lame) competitor comprising the field. Why even make you pick new kids to face if they have no direct influence over the four cars on the track? That’s just my two sense. Otherwise, Spider’s a freaking boss. Even though he’s aiming for the whole 1950s rebel look, he definitely strikes me as someone who would race micro machines for a living.
All-in-all, it’s a game worth playing for adults nostalgic for their Micro Machines childhood and anyone looking to take on IGN’s list of the Top 100 NES games. While in truth it wasn’t the fairest racer I’ve come across in terms of difficulty, Micro Machines offered quite a bit for an 8-bit title. Heck, it even turned into a vehicular combat game through the tanks…even if I severely despised those tanks…
Challenge: 6/10: Okay, so the Monster Machine challenges are virtually unwinnable. The tanks are undoubtedly the most frustrating of the machine modes because they do somewhat spring the vehicular combat aspect on you, and it’s not executed smoothly at all. The ordering of levels feels poorly done…shouldn’t they have started with the top shelf (sports cars) and then have worked their way down until you had competed with all eight regular forms of micros and rotated back to the top of the shelf? Nah, that’s too easy! We just won’t feature tanks or helicopters until Levels 12-16…and this after you’ve pretty much completed all three Jeep levels. Sheesh…
Handling: 7/10: Every micro class handled like its own, and that was nice. But sometimes those vehicles lost a control a little too easily, and provided that you were taking on a series of tightly woven circuits, a little more car control would’ve been greatly appreciated.
Innovation: 10/10: One of the first games to use vehicular combat? Allowed you to drive different micro vehicles, each with their own style and cool sound effects in nine highly detailed environments that reminded you of your house? Excuse me, sir, I believe the phone just rang. They’re saying, “We are Micro Machines, and we have your childhood. Care to have it back?”
Core Experience: 10/10: The aesthetics are gorgeous considering it’s 8-bit power at work, and the BGM became my third favorite standard soundtrack for a racing game…behind RC Pro-AM and Rage Racer, of course. On top of everything, you really do feel like you’re living out your fantasy of racing those tiny toy cars through this video game. But fortunately it wasn’t the only one…because the rough difficulty was bound to wear you down sooner or later.
OVERALL: 8.3/Great: It’s quite a bit fantastic if not a little too masochistic. Ultimately, Micro Machines on the NES is worth your time if you can withstand a brutal learning curve.