Micro Machines V4

They’re fast, furious and really really small. The Micro Machines are back to prove that bigger isn’t always better, and that you don’t have to be in Tokyo to drift a car like nobody's business.

Even though it’s been more than a decade since the first Micro Machines hit consoles, the love affair with all things miniature continues, with the release of Micro Machines V4. If tiny dogs are good enough for celebrities and tiny portions are good enough for classy restaurants, then tiny cars are just fine in my book. With over 750 different micro machines to collect in this game it seems like a dream come true. Unfortunately, it’s a case of overkill, as you race your heart out to unlock them all, and then pour over screens and screens full of similar looking and similar sounding cars all graced with similar sounding names. It’s enough to overwhelm even the most hardcore car buffs. “Uh, I’ll go with…. that one” you stammer, as you pick out a likely looking car from the multitudes.

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With your expertly selected mini-mobile locked in, you’re then thrown onto the track to compete in different types of races, including one on one battles and checkpoint challenges. The tracks are haphazard courses set in everyday places including rooftops, pool tables, gardens and kitchen bench tops. The thing to remember of course, is that your car is only an inch tall, so your toy train chugging around the lounge suddenly becomes a rocketing freight train of death if it crosses your path.

Once you’re confident you can brave the giant scenery, you’re likely to be in for a rude shock. Driving these little vehicles is much harder than you might imagine. The controls are simple – hold down X and remember to breathe. The tracks however, make things a little more complicated. Even the earliest races in the game are a nightmare to navigate around, with more sharp corners than an origami crane. Combined with breakneck speed and a constantly changing camera angle, you’re likely to fly off the edge of the track half a dozen times before you have the course completely memorised. The unusual thing about this style of gameplay isn’t how frustrating it can be, but rather how agonisingly addictive it is. Similar to the old PC game Skyroads, it somehow convinces you that your success lies in the next attempt. So you grind your teeth and swear to anyone within hearing range that you’re going to “get it this time, for sure”, all the while chastising yourself for not being that little bit better.

Once you’re feeling well and truly gloomy about your poor memory and shaky reaction times, it’s a good time to throw a fox in with the chickens, and indulge in some combat style races with your mates. You can choose to have the courses littered with power ups and weapons that you can use to thwart your opponents chances of winning. The more damage each car takes, the harder it becomes to control, until eventually you’re left sitting motionless on the track, sans wheels. Admittedly, it is pretty fun blowing your opponent off the track with a rocket launcher, but the skill required to both drive and attack is often too much to manage, especially for the younger players.

Luckily, the huge range of race settings are both imaginative and entertaining, because the graphics lack any semblance of pizzazz. The cars look like coloured play blocks zooming around, and the different environments, while detailed in theme, fail a closer inspection. In a next generation gaming world, these dated PS2 graphics will impress nobody.

If you’re sick of using your car for high speed chases, drive by shootings or spectacular mid-air collisions, you might consider Micro Machines V4. In small doses, the faults are easy enough to ignore, the vibe is upbeat and there’s enough game content to keep you occupied for the next two millennia.

"It only just holds onto it's charm after all these years."
- Micro Machines v4
Follow Own it? Rating: G   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 30 Min


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