Video Games Review: Micro Machines: World Series (PS4, 2017)

As we roll into the second half of the year, everyone has come down with a serious case of nostalgia. The remaster of Crash Bandicoot is selling out, Wipeout Omega collection has revived the fan favourite in 4K and Micro Machines: World Series is now available for PS4. But seeing things through nostalgia goggles is a dangerous proposition as Micro Machines has clearly proven.

Most things remain the same. This is Micro Machines as you know it. Which means it’s about as bulimic as you remember. But that was 1991 and all things considered, it was perfectly normal. Launching the game, you have a few options. You can play ‘skirmish’ which is the games local co-op mode. This sees you or up to 3 friends duke it out in classic elimination races or battle arenas. As much fun as it can be, it takes about an hour for tedium to set in as maps and the general concept are repeated ad nauseam.

Micro Machines is built to be played online with friends though. Here it will open up a range of new options and really gives purpose to which car you pick. You can choose any of the aforementioned modes plus battle arenas will rotate through King of the Hill, Capture the Flag and other variations as well as resetting a special event every day or so. This is where things reach their peak in terms of enjoyment. King of the Hill for instance can devolve into absolute mayhem and it’s this type of sheer entertainment that I wish extended to all other parts of the game.

Micro Machines is fairly repetitive and shallow. You don’t need to spend a great deal of time with it before you see all it has to offer. Single player is basically non-existent. In fact you may as well go online solo because you’ll be playing against AI anyway. The online community is a barren wasteland, even days after release. So at least this way you can rank up, attain skins and extras for your cars and play those modes that you won’t get to play anywhere else.

Side note: When you do rank up to level 10, you unlock ranked matches. The game has been out for less than a week and already you’re told upon entering it that “the next season starts in 90 days”. I have no idea why this is even a thing.

The car selection is somewhat limited, especially given the former games absolute plethora of different vehicles. There are only 12 available here and although their aesthetics and designs can be altered via skins, it’s still kind of a shame to see such a measly selection. This implementation is no doubt a result of the games focus on battles, given how every vehicle has an extremely different range of weapons and abilities. Agent Atom for instance resembles a James Bond car that can turn invisible and fire missiles and cop car LT. Shields can call in a supporting chopper with its ultimate ability. Finding your play style and exploiting each ability effectively is really cool and I did enjoy just how vastly disparate each vehicle is. It’s probably the biggest attraction for replayability.

There is an innocuous sense of innocence and charm to revel in while here. Maps are designed to harness that, ranging from desktops and kitchen tables, popping out of toasters and firing nerf darts at each other. It’s smooth, colourful and objects pop and roll around the map. Whatever it’s shortcomings, Micro Machines, at least visually, captures everything that was so engrossing about the original games.

I feel as though Micro Machines: World Series’ success hinders on its price tag. At $40, it might just be worth its throwback status and undeniable fun you can have with friends, falling off of the map in elimination modes or beating them to a pulp in battles. But as a full experience, it just isn’t robust enough to be praised. With a severe lack of modes, odd design choices and a small catalogue of vehicles, you’re definitely going to have to weigh up how much time you’re going to spend with it and if your friends are willing to fork out for it too.

The worst part is that World Series is basically a port of the Android/iOS game. And although that has micro (heh)- transactions, it’s free to install, comes with hundreds of vehicles and it could almost be argued that it looks better. World Series – intentional or not – seems like a nostalgic cash grab that just doesn’t have enough under the hood to fool people.

Review Score: 5 out of 10
Highlights: Fun with friends; Nice nostalgic hit; Charming visuals
Lowlights: Repetitive; Lack of modes; Limited number of vehicles; Online community is dead; No one will be playing by the time ranked season ends; Arguably an inferior port
Developer: Codemasters, Just Add Water
Publisher: Codemasters
Release date: Out now
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, MAC

Reviewed on PlayStation 4.