Part of the reason Micro Machines were such beloved toys was their Nintendo game. Developed by racing experts Codemasters, the game had the witty conceit that you were racing through human-sized environments in teeny little cars. Now, a quarter century later, Codies and the tiny little cars are back in Micro Machines World Series ($30, PS4, Xbox One, and PC), and this time with a focus on playing against friends.
The basic idea is the same. Players pick one of twelve vehicles, which mostly vary in how they look, and can race around one of the ten tracks, attack each other demolition derby style in Free-For-All, or rack up points in Elimination. Mario Kart is a very clear inspiration here, and you can either go splitscreen with up to four friends on the couch or even more online in the various modes. Your friends are important, because the game’s heavily built around multiplayer, with a relatively thin single-player mode that’s mostly there for you to master the mechanics.
That said, players will want to play it through against the AI, just to get the hang of the game. Codies decided to go retro, in the sense that the cars handle like bricks and the tracks are deliberately designed to send you hurtling off the track to an explosive death. To really get a hang of the races, players will need to judiciously hit the gas and be careful not to oversteer. The top-down perspective can also take a minute to master, and it might have been better if the game hadn’t locked the camera but let it shift to follow your racer. It doesn’t matter much when playing against friends, and the tricky handling and camera amps up the comedy, but it can also make things even more chaotic, somehow.
The tracks stand out for their sheer creativity. Racking a car into a toaster or, in what’s easily the most brilliant track, dodging the Hungry Hungry Hippos, is a lot of fun. That said, Hasbro pretty clearly sees this as a marketing opportunity, as Hasbro products are everywhere; your powerups are all Nerf weapons, for example, and full-size versions lie around the tracks. It’s not like you have to watch a Transformers ad to continue, but paired with the loot boxes you have to earn to change the look of your car, cosmetically, it does feel a bit like you’ve paid for an ad.
Still, once you get some friends in front of the TV or online, those concerns fall away. What’s important is that the game’s a lot of fun with some friends, and if you’re a multiplayer, or just want a great party game, Micro Machines World Series is perfect.