If, like us, you've got fond memories of huddling around a small square screen as deep as it was wide, racing pixelated cars on twisting tracks that punished even the slightest mistake, then you were probably looking forward to playing Micro Machines: World Series as much as we were.
This is actually a sub-genre that has been visited a couple of times of late, with Toybox Turbos (also by Codemasters) and Table Top Racing: World Tour both looking to fill the gap left by the extended absence of Micro Machines (obviously, we're not counting the mobile title released last year). Both games did a solid job of realising the basic premise (that being: little cars racing around domestic environments), but neither delivered what you might call a "definitive experience", and nostalgic memories of hard-as-nails local MP on the Mega Drive have, for many of us, prevailed over modern interpretations.
And thus the stage was set for a triumphant return, where the newest iteration of the game that once ruled supreme in the top-down racing genre could come back and reclaim its crown. Alas, that's not quite how it worked out, and in the end Codemasters has delivered a game that doesn't quite scratch the Micro Machines itch that's been niggling us for many a year.
The most obvious flaw here is the lack of modes. There's just not enough to get your teeth stuck into and drive the kind of grind that the game obviously wants you to invest. There's no career mode, no tongue-in-cheek story mode complete with a flimsy story; simply put, it's lacking in terms of infrastructure. While you might have a lot of fun racing around snooker tables, or dodging cereal and gas-powered cookers, there's just not enough trimmings built around the core gameplay loop to facilitate a long-term addiction.
There are some good racing modes in there. The standard races are the main course, whereby twelve cars rip around tracks that snake left and right, picking up weapons which can be used to slow their opponents, taking advantage of shortcuts hidden in plain sight. There is a selection of nicely decorated environments to speed around, and the cars themselves look great. At first, and for the first few plays on each, it can be extremely tough, punishing almost to a fault, but once you've got the knack of each track and muscle memory starts to sink in, you can actually have fun with the racing. Learning the tracks, however, wasn't particularly fun, and our initial impression of the game was pretty negative.
The cars are very floaty in terms of handling, and careful control is essential lest you drift off the track every five seconds. To make matters worse, when you respawn you'll often be tempted to immediately go at full speed to catch up, but often the placement of the spawn means a burst of speed will send you straight off the track again. This lessens with experience, but even after several hours, we found this little quirk remained frustrating. Another annoyance: once you get stuck in the chasing pack, you're much more likely to get taken out by weaponised opponents, slowing your attempted comeback considerably at times. That said, after a few hours, we started to enjoy the game a bit more, even if it didn't fully click.