There’s a part of me that will always be reserved for driving tiny cars around familiar environments. I just grew up at the right time, and remember many happy hours spent playing the original Micro Machines on the SEGA Genesis. I even had plenty of the little toys to absentmindedly leave on the carpet to trap any unsuspecting human that might enter my room.
So I approached this new mobile outing with some trepidation. I didn’t think it was going to destroy my cherished childhood memories, but at the same time I didn’t want it to be awful. The good news is that it isn’t. It’s a perfectly solid shrunk down free to play racer, but with a few too many niggles to earn it a place among the elite of the App Store.
Once again, the game is all about driving around tight little courses in your miniature vehicle. And once again those courses take place in real world environments. There are books to jump over, milk spills to skid through and plenty more weird yet familiar landscapes to slide around.
You only control the direction your car is heading though, with the game taking care of the speed you’re haring around the track at. When you pick up a special weapon you can fire it by pushing the button that pops up on the right of the screen.
You’re not collecting full cars this time around either. There’s a gacha mechanic that sees you getting different packs of vehicle parts. You need to collect four specific parts to unlock a new car, and you can send doubles to your friends to receive some in-game currency.
There’s a social element to pretty much everything you do in the game. The races you compete in are against other players and you can join a club to earn group rewards for your performances. And there’s always something to do, so long as you don’t mind the random nature of the free events.
If you want to play a specific mode you often need to spend some currency or wait, but if you’re happy with the game selecting what you do you can always play a random race for free. There are a variety of different challenges, from straight forward first-to-the-finish races to more intense elimination experiences and carnage laced battle royales.
This is a game that’s always giving you something as well. Whether it’s coins, points for yourself or your group, gems or new car parts, most of the races you complete will up your coffers. There are videos to watch to up your rewards, and boosts that give you extra stuff as a one-off.
But there are problems here. The reviving mechanic in some of the races involves paying or waiting and sometimes the balancing feels deliberately off – I’ve had the most powerful car in a race only to be left behind at the starting line and never see the rest of the field again.
Some of the modes aren’t as much fun as others as well, which wouldn’t be too bad if you could skip them, but if you’re playing random challenges then you’re going to face them a lot of the time.
But there’s also a lot to like. Collecting the cars is fun if grindy, and there’s a thread of the wacky humour that made the original so compulsive here too. Micro Machines isn’t the Micro Machines I remember from my youth, but then it was never going to be. What it is is an interesting little diversion with some solid ideas that, while it won’t take over the world, is a lot of fun while its got its claws in you.