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Codemasters released Micro Machines on various consoles back in 1991, but the version I played and loved was for the Sega Mega Drive. Being such a huge fan of the toys when I was a kid, when I saw this on the shelves at my local video games store I couldn’t wait to get it. Good job I had all that birthday money saved up!
Micro Machines was a racing game for up to two players in its original release and came in its very own uniquely shaped cartridge. Later sequels were adapted to allow two controllers to be plugged directly into the cartridge, which I always thought was pretty cool.
The game features cartoony visuals and is played from a “top-down” perspective giving you a great view of the level designs which are full of character and themed obstacles. You get to drive a range of miniature vehicles on breakfast tables, the beach, on school desks, in bathtubs and on my personal favourite; the pool tables. I love the use of playing cards for ramps, pockets you drive down and the ability to knock your opponent off the table with a looney tunes style puff of smoke as they fall to their death.
In single player you have two modes to choose from which are “Head to Head” and “Challenge”. The first offers a simple one-on-one gameplay style where you must beat your opponent to the edge of the screen. Doing so rewards you with a point, until one of you wins by filling them all in your colour. It’s quite different to the usual rules in racing games of winning laps and the “stop-start” style of this mode may not be to everyone’s tastes. It can take a little bit of getting used to and for single player, this isn’t my preferred choice.
In challenge mode things feel a little bit more familiar where you complete laps and must finish in first or second place to qualify for the next race. Coming in third or fourth means you lose a chance and have to try again. As you only start the game with 3 chances, if you lose them all it’s game over.
The game starts off fairly easy and get progressively harder as you would expect. However, each opponent has a different driving style, with some being easier to beat than others, so you do have a chance for some tactical advantage if you’re familiar with the game and its characters.
Coming in first place for each race in a round also allows you to partake in a bonus stage which grants you an extra chance (which is essentially a continue) if you manage to complete it within the time limit.
This is all very nice, but where this game really shines is in its multiplayer! Remember the part where I told you about the head-to-head mode that possibly sounded a little bit boring? Well, not if that opponent is your friend! For a quick pick-up-and-play competitive game with friends, Micro Machines is some of the best fun I’ve had on the Mega Drive. In fact, whilst recording this gameplay footage with my friend Kev, we were in tears of laughter as we cheekily nudged each other into obstacles or off the track entirely to our doom! There are plenty of opportunities for foul play here which can make this game hilarious.
One thing to note here though is we did encounter a few glitches where the better player who was on the track sometimes lost a point to the other person way off, but with a few beers and a good attitude, this just added to the laughs we had.
In terms of music there isn’t much to talk about here beyond the introductory theme tune, as during the races there’s only the engine noises and sound effects to listen to. This didn’t matter too much as to be honest, I didn’t really notice the absence of music, but I felt it was worth noting.
If you find it cheap, I’d say it’s definitely worth picking up and keeping an eye out for the other games in the series. They also released Micro Machines v3 on the PlayStation 1 and v4 on the PS2 which are great fun as well and I’ll no doubt cover these in the future.