Micro Machines V3
For those unfamiliar with the first two instalments, Micro Machines is a top-down racing game involving tiny toy cars steaming around some curious household locations. Eschewing ultra-realistic simulations of real tracks, the races instead take place over scenarios such as the top of the bath, a pool table and even the breakfast table, with tea and toast providing unorthodox obstacles. Essentially a multi-player experience, it's carved itself a niche in gaming history by being one of the best games to play on returning home from the pub - drunk and pissed up on booze - with aptitude at the game acting as an impromptu surrogate breathalyser. Those who find themselves regularly careering off the screen are well advised to take a taxi home.
For the first time, the all-new version will feature 3D-modelled environments - with 3Dfx support - comprising 48 tracks littered around the familiar Micro Machines world, including a school desk, science lab, beach, restaurant and garden. The 32 vehicles - sports cars, buggies, power boats, monster trucks, transmutable cars and camper vans among others - can also be fitted with hidden weapons such as forcefields, fireballs, mines and even a bonnet-mounted hammer, which we are assured delivers earthquake-like blows. A further unique tool in the armoury is a grabber claw which snatches an opponent's vehicle from the track and hurls it to the back of the race - something that could doubtless become intensely annoying to the party being hurled (hee hee).
In keeping with past efforts, this version of Micro Machines will again feature an array of suitably wacky drivers. Spider is a Home Counties buffoon who permanently wears shades to disguise his lazy eye. Jethro is a Jamaican who enjoys reading detective novels. Jade is a Scottish soapdodger, and she likes sleeping and ambient music. Cherry from Chelsea enjoys riding her pony and making potions with her chemistry set. Chen from Japan spends entire weekends watching his collection of Manga videos with the curtains drawn. Bonnie from Sarf London raps in an all-girl group. Dwayne from California gets off on snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding. And finally, Walter from Rotterdam enjoys surfing the Internet and eating Pot Noodles.
Although network capabilities have yet to be announced, there should be support for up to eight players, with race modes including head-to-head, challenge, time trial, keepsies, teams and party play. Players will also be able to collect, test and gamble special prize cars.
Codemasters will be releasing Micro Machines V3 in spring this year. Vrooom!
Some Things In This World Are Just intrinsically wrong, aren't they? Take ears, for example. How ugly are they? They look like leftover pieces of biological tissue which our Creator shoved on at the last moment in a fit of 'waste not, want not' do-goodery. If they weren't so bloody useful they'd get sliced off at birth, along with the umbilical cord. Okay, so we'd have to keep our sunglasses on with sellotape or staples, but at least we wouldn't have to put up with those unsightly mangles of flesh poking out from either side of our head. And what about that new logo for Wall's ice cream? Pardon us, but what, precisely, was wrong with the old one? Its replacement looks a bit too continental for its own good - like one of those unfamiliar trademarks you see adorning beach-side cafes on a cheap package holiday. It's just not right.
That's how unsettling shabby design can be. But what about the other side? What about all those elements upon which the Gods of Design decided to smile? Turds, for instance. They're beautiful. They're so beautiful, no one can bear to flush them away without turning round for a quick look first. Check out those tapered ends! Not only are they aesthetically charming, they also perform an important practical function: preventing your buttocks from clapping together each time you drop one off. Make no mistake, the turd is a design masterpiece. So is the great white shark. And so is the London Underground map. And so is Micro Machines. Ah, yes, Micro Machines. Now there goes a lesson in sturdy design.
Better by design
Well, it wasn't broke, so they didn't really need to fix it. The single most important thing to realise about Micro Machines V3 is that in the gameplay stakes it's virtually identical to its predecessors. In other words, utterly simple and totally compelling. Even the most technophobic newcomer will feel right at home in minutes. This is computer gaming at its most lucidly intuitive and instantly engaging. Just pick a character and you're off. There are only three buttons to worry about (well, okay, four if you're going to ponce around with the optional power-ups), and only one aim in mind: to be in front of everybody else. You won't need to look in the manual at all, unless you're an imbecile. Oh, and unless you want to know which key is which. Still, you get the point.
The real-world Micro Machines are, of course, a range of incredibly tiny toy vehicles and figurines so detailed they're almost good enough to eat. Micro Machines are almost unfathomably wee, and Codemasters have made much of this in the design of the 48 racing tracks themselves, with all the racing taking place in everyday environments rendered strange and exotic by virtue of the motorised protagonists' diminutive size. Thus a circuit set within the confines of an apparently normal school room becomes a knuckle-whitening rally that weaves its way over, around and through a selection of mundane objects which suddenly double as outstandingly realised obstacles: the cavernous gap between desks is bridged with a precariously narrow ruler; an unassuming calculator becomes a suicidally ambitious ramp. The genius of the design team - and, we kid you not, there is genius at work here - lies in the fact that not a single object on or near the track seems at all out of place. It's all perfectly scaled and minutely observed. Combined with the pick-up-and-play nature of the control system, it's this sublime course design that makes up the bulk of the game's almost unstoppable appeal.
Into the thirdkdimensioh
There's more. Thanks to the march of technology, there's a whole new angle to consider. Now it's immaculately presented in three dimensions instead of two, owing to ttfb advent of those now seemingly obligatory 3D accelerator cards. Inevitably, much has been made of this spatial promotion, and many of the later courses seem to veer up and down as much as they do from side to side. The action used to be viewed straight down from a set height; now, a 'floating' camera pans and zooms on the fly to frame the action perfectly. And unlike many old-skool games which suffer in the transition to three dimensions (witness the revamped Frogger or the Nintendo 64 version of Bomberman), here Codemasters have managed to leave that delicately balanced gameplay resolutely intact - which is a deceptively skilful achievement in its own right.
So, any pitfalls? Well, it's a decidedly average experience when played on your own. The computer opponents (even the 'stupid' ones) simply don't make enough mistakes. They rarely spin off the track or collide with the obstacles, and as such each race becomes an attempt to perfect your own technique rather than a laugh-a-minute Gumball Rally in miniature. With this in mind, be warned that Micro Machines is first and foremost a multi-player game. You don't need a network to get the most out of it, since four players can participate simultaneously on a single PC (eight on a network), but you do need some friends. So go and make some. Other gripes? Well, the inclusion of power-ups hasn't made any significant change to the gameplay (although the 'giant hammer' power-up is undeniably cool), and some of you may find that they actually get in the way - but you can switch them off if you want.
All in all though, it's a blast. Unadulterated entertainment shoved right into your head and face. With a great big virtual glove. Oh, and incidentally, it looks miles better than the PlayStation version.
The Micro Conspiracy
Micro Machines is the exception that proves the rule. And which rule might that be? Why, the rule that states that anything featuring the word 'Micro' in its title that gets offered for mass consumption is guaranteed to be irredeemable rubbish, of course. Don't believe us? Then look at the evidence...
Mediocre early '80s computer 'edutainment' show presented by the creepily enthusiastic Fred Harris, proud owner of some of the vilest pullovers ever to grace our screens (though John Craven often came close). Every episode was little more than a vaguely sinister extended advertisement for the BBC Model B home computer system.
Tiny sci-fi figurines which somehow managed to be both disappointingly limited in use (ie they didn't 'do' anything) and flabbergastingly expensive at the same time. Unless you had the whole set, they looked rubbish. And if you did have the whole set, you were probably so rich that you didn't bother playing with them, since you also owned ten jetpacks and a full-scale model of the Death Star. Chiz chiz.
Not those trifling computer-related thingies, we're talking about McCain's miracle foodstuff here. In the olden days, if you wanted an overpriced fistful of unappetising, soggy chips, you had to seek out the worst chippy in town. Now, a comparable dish can be prepared and endured in minutes in your own kitchen thanks to the wonder of our next micro-travesty...
Even in this day and age, does anyone really trust these? After all, they sort of cook food by 'magic', don't they? They've even got an illogical Achilles heel, like all decent supernatural phenomena: werewolves fear the silver bullet, and vampires gasp at the sign of the cross; the dreaded microwave oven can be destroyed by a simple plate with a metallic rim. Thanks to these boxy aberrations of nature, all manner of edibles can now be heated beyond belief in a manner that defies both natural logic and lucid description at a stroke. Ninety-eight per cent of the time, the results border on the inedible. But hey, it's quick, right?
Shiny Happy People
Like its predecessors, Micro Machines V3 has gone down the Gene Roddenberry route to self-conscious ethnic diversity: every other playable character represents a minority group of some description, usually in the most cheerfully simplistic manner possible. And 'cheerfully' really is the watchword here. The entire cast manages to be so insufferably pleasant and easy-going that you can't help wanting to phone them up individually and claim that their immediate family has just been torn apart by a pack of slavering dingos, just to wipe those smug smiles off their smug faces. Some might say there's nothing wrong with Codemasters trying to inject a bit of Disneyesque merriment into what is essentially a 'family' game, but here at Zone we think it would have been far cooler to replace the happy-clappy line-up with an embittered gang of foul-mouthed borderline psychotics prone to vomiting out of the car windows, inexplicably beating themselves in the eye with hammers and committing suicide at the end of each race. And it should've been packaged in a grimy iron box and re-titled Honk If You Hate Jesus: The Game of Nihilistic Racetrack Despair instead. But for some mad reason that simply hasn't happened.
Cars in Your Eyes
The incredible range of vehicles on display in Micro Machines V3 makes the annual Earl's Court Motor Show look like a Rambler's Association car park. There are 32 vehicles in all - more than is strictly necessary, really - and they all exhibit their own characteristics. Many are available from the very start, but you'll need to 'earn' the more exotic examples by honing your racing skills to the max.
Finish first in a race and you'll be granted a 'bonus car', each of which has its own custom course. Our favourites are the souped-up buggies (which almost tip onto their sides when going around sharp corners), the Formula One racing cars (as you'd expect, they're incredibly fast) and the pun-tastic 'Conemasters' ice cream vans (complete with nostalgia-inducing jingle). Duff vehicles, in our opinion, include the utterly frustrating powerboats (with a turning circle that resembles the path of Jupiter's solar orbit) and those sodding bloody tanks (too slow, and the ability to continually blow one another up with artillery and landmines can simply become annoying when your opponents insist on continually abusing it).
Download Micro Machines V3
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode