Micro Machines

Micro Machines - sega genesis

Micro Machines (1991)
By: Code Masters Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, SNES, NES, Game Boy, CDi, PC, Amiga

People will always have differing opinions of things. Whether it’s games, films, music or anything else you can think of; there will always be at least one person that worships something and another who hates it with just as much passion. However, generally speaking, good things are regarded as good by the majority and likewise bad things remain bad. This is as true of video games as anything else but there’s bound to be a few people that dislike well-regarded games and that includes me – it was the whole reason I created the ‘Overrated!’ feature here at Red Parsley of course. I’ve only covered four games so far though, which suggests it isn’t something that happens too often, but if there was one game I always had at the back of my mind to add to the feature, it would be this one. I don’t think there’s any game so universally lauded that I dislike, but I caught a lot of flak for its omission from my recent Top Five so I figured it was as good a time as any to address the issue!

Micro Machines - sega genesis

Micro Machines themselves – the little toys – are pretty cool. I’ve even collected a few such as the range they released based on the awesome Babylon 5, and when the game was released it was met with universal acclaim from reviewers and players alike. I’ve always been keen on games of this type so I sought it out with the utmost haste. Being equally keen on my splendid MegaDrive, it was this version I plumped for and first impressions of the game were… superb! The presentation is outstanding with nice cartoony intro and options screens which give you the choice between single or multi-player games. The latter offers the choice of ‘Single Race’ or ‘Tournament’ for two players while the former allows you to choose between ‘Head to Head’ or ‘Challenge’ games, and it is the first of these that I prefer by some way which is basically the two-player mode but against a CPU-controlled opponent.

Micro Machines - sega genesis

Before starting you first need to choose your own character as well as your opponent’s from a selection of eleven cartoony human oafs whose skill level supposedly increases gradually from one to the next. You’ll then race each other in your various miniature vehicles over a series of courses based on household locales. The first, for example, sees you racing powerboats around a bubbly bath tub! Other vehicles include Sports Cars, Formula One Cars, Tanks, Turbo Wheels (buggies), Warriors (hot rods), 4×4’s, and Choppers, and they are raced around the house on things like desk tops, breakfast tables, snooker tables, and even around the workshop and garden. All race locations feature items and obstacles appropriate to their setting which most of the time make themselves unwelcome. In the two-player Single Race mode you can choose a vehicle which is then raced over its ‘home’ course, but in all other play modes the courses are arranged in order and you have to win one to see the next.

Micro Machines - sega genesis

Unfortunately, this is where the problems start, at least as far as I’m concerned. The single player Challenge mode features a series of twenty four races which includes several courses based on each house location with corresponding vehicle type used. Races are against three CPU vehicles with very simple rules – complete the required number of laps and finish in the highest position possible. If you finish in the top two, you can move on to the next race. If not, you’ll lose a life. All the other play modes feature one-on-one races, whether that’s human vs the computer or another human. On the left side of the screen are eight coloured circles – four red, four blue. The object is to turn all the circles your own colour which is done by getting far enough ahead of your rival that they drop off the screen. Each time you manage this, a circle is filled in your favour. This can make races very short or immense endurance contests depending on the skill and luck of the participants, with the latter playing a notably more prominent role than the former in my experience.

Micro Machines - sega genesis

There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, in all head-to-head play modes, by their very nature you’re frequently racing high up the screen with little warning or view of upcoming corners and obstacles. Secondly, the design of the courses, while original and very appealing, also leaves masses of obstacles all over the place which not only slow you down if you hit them, but are also very easy to get stuck behind. On top of that, many of the courses take place on a table or something similar which means slipping over the edge and crashing to your doom is also commonplace. I can’t really say the courses gradually increase in complexity and difficulty as you might expect, either – the course that makes me most angry is only the third, and the one after it is a piece of cake! As annoying as all this stuff can be, it’s all manageable in slower vehicles like the 4×4’s or Tanks, but when you have to zoom around courses in fast, skiddy vehicles like the Sports or Formula One cars, mistakes come often which soon proves immensely frustrating.

Micro Machines - sega genesis

It might seem like a game that’s hard to get pissed at judging by the screenshots though. As mentioned, the presentation is fantastic, and the audio is great too, with plenty of catchy tunes and various noises. Graphically, there are no flashy special effects or anything here and it’s easy to see why the game looks more or less the same across a variety of systems, but it’s still very pleasing on the eyes nonetheless. It’s certainly a mighty colourful game and the appropriately tiny vehicles all look nice enough as they career through the smoothly-scrolling courses, but the varied backgrounds and the great attention to detail is where the work has really been done. Most of them show great creativity and are filled with a conveniently-arranged mess befitting their setting. For example, the breakfast table course is marked out by Cheerios (or something similar) and has various foodstuffs dotted around like waffles and fruit. On-course obstructions are caused by spillages such as baked beans, and there’s even a cereal-box jump!

Micro Machines - sega genesis

Most of the other courses are just as detailed and imaginative, and discovering their various sights and features is highly enjoyable the first few times you race them. However, as amusing and comedic as the game may be, the object is still surely to make progress and win races while having fun, not instead of? Success comes from driving round the more difficult courses time and time again until you can do so blindfolded; until you can do so without making even the tiniest mistake. Doing so is immensely tense/exciting during the race and immensely satisfying afterwards, but this is likely to happen far less than the alternative which I at least found incredibly frustrating and rage-inducing: winning, winning, doing well, BANG! … stuck behind trackside object, near-instant last place… racing, racing, doing well again, regain the lead, skid a teeny bit too far on a corner, fall off the table, near-instant last place, racing, cross the finish line in last place, lost a life… GrrrrrRRRRRR!!!!

Micro Machines - sega genesis

Okay, I know I’m probably going to take a right kicking from the legions of Micro Machines fans who loved and still love this game and its sequels; I know its faults that annoy me so are mainly limited to certain courses on which the faster vehicles are used, and even then can be found in many other overhead racers (though not nearly so prominently, I submit), but I can scarcely recall any gaming experience that makes me as angry as this one is capable of doing – something which is much more pronounced in the Challenge mode in which you have to manage to go without making a mistake for much longer than the short bursts of skill/luck required in the other modes. Control of the vehicles is flawless though, admittedly, and with two players, both of you are as disadvantaged as each other I suppose (unless one has had a lot more practise!) but winning is still often more down to luck than skill.

Micro Machines - sega genesis
Based on my prior experiences with this game I was preparing to give is cursory play to refresh my mind, then duly unleash the diatribe it deserves and give it a very low score, but I suppose I have to begrudgingly admit that I enjoyed Micro Machines much more this time. It’s still reallyannoying though, and frequently so – some times I’ll play it and do extremely well, even having enormous fun in the process, then catch myself thinking “this game is great, I was wrong, I’ll give a glowing review!”, but then my next session with it makes me angrier than ten Incredible Hulks and I end up smashing stuff up. The ideas behind the game are amazingly great and there’s many laughs to be had here, but in the end, this is a great example of a game that can be effing awesome and incredibly annoying, often within seconds of each other! Does that make it terrible game? No, I guess not, but it’s not a great one either in my opinion, sorry.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m08miUSCHI[/youtube]

RKS Score: 6/10

 

Facebook Gaming vs Real Games aka anything else

Facebook Gaming vs Real Games

As an experiment of sorts I installed a bunch of Facebook games to my profile to see why people play those games. I quickly saw that these games are merely made so that you can waste your time faster at a dead-end job (maybe a real job) rather than at the usual braindead rate.

Life is strife. Life is challenge. Most of the FB games I found (like 99% of them) don’t have any death penalty. What’s the point of doing anything if you’re immortal? Like seriously, even Tic Tac Toe is more hardcore. Even Pong is insanely more punishing than the typical FB game.

Tic Tac Toe
Yeah, even this little girl is more hardcore than Farmville!

I found a pattern with most of these games. The typical game will let you do a certain amount of actions or so per hour or per day, regenerating your ability to do more if you wait or if you pay real life money or facebook money. I guess this appeals to people who always thought video games were retarded but now they’re addicted to the most base form of “video games”.

FB games are basically blatant ripoffs on concepts taken from old school BBS door games. There’s a ton that involve having land, building an army, and attacking other players for resources. Of course, all these games now involve “leveling up” which sometimes doesn’t even give you anything but just goes to show how much of a loser you are for playing the game for longer than 2 minutes.

I actually found one FB game which does have death and losing but pretty much nobody plays it. The game is called Verdonia and it plays a lot like an MMO version of Defender of the Crown. The game consists of building up your country and conquering land from NPC and other player nations. Most other games are about trains or zombies or farms or dumb shit. It’s just a bunch of pointless fucking grinding that makes even the worst play-for-free MMO look like a work of art.

I guess these games appeal to the basic gaming addict that just want their level to go up with no point or skill needed. Here, just click on this button a bunch of times and level up your farm/zombie herd/etc.

I played these games for a bunch of days and then I fired up even some games that I had been sick of playing and here is what happened. OMFG, is this what fun feels like? Like, I’m sick of playing certain games that I play all the time with my friends like Dawn of War 1 and 2, Battleforge, GRID, etc but Jesus H Christ, even grinding these games that don’t even give me any gratification anymore is much more entertaining than even the best FB game. I found that my skill in playing games that require practice degraded a lot and I had to repractice to get my skills up to par.

Let’s talk about specific games:

Lucky Train: Build trains, board them, click to send them, repeat over and over and over and over and over (kill yourself)
Office & Co: Simulates pointless office jobs, the best part of the game being when you fight your boss and you play rock, paper, scissors with the chance of losing, only to repeat it again. You can’t get fired unlike in real life, for playing this game at work and getting caught.
BRAAAINS: Cute graphics but that doesn’t make up for a game where you can’t die. Build up a zombie army and keep doing it over and over as you fight random strangers in an uncontrolled pvp animated match.
Mobsters 2: Vendetta: Kind of neat to see the different missions that you can do but essentially, you read it once and who cares after you click on the mission again for the 40th time.
Castle Age: “rpg” fantasy game where you do quests that are just you clicking the quest button over and over and then you fight bosses and pvp other players, with no real death penalty. Pointless.
OfficeWorld: Tired of your pointless job in real life? Go be an asshole in a virtual office in this game. Click on people and deal with office drama, again without being able to get fired.
TrainStation: Similar to LuckyTrain, except not as cute.
CarTown: Game for people who wish they were 6 years old again and could play Micro Machines.
NightClub City: One of the neater games, again you can’t lose. Cool thing about it is that it plays samples from real musicians which I guess it’s a way for you to buy their singles online.
RomanTaxi: You run a taxi service in Ancient Rome… Yeah…
Mercenaries of War: Create a band of warriors and fight NPCs and other players, and even though they just shot you with assault rifles, you can never lose to the point of having to make a new character. What fucking bullshit is that?
BrainBuddies: Harder than the other games I just mentioned. You get to do little brain teasers to see how clever you are, or just how many times you did these quizzes and memorized what you had to do.
City of Wonder: Civilization rip off in which you attack random people and build up your city with again little consequence of chance of dying.
Tetris Friends: At least this is modeled after a real game. How can you fuck up Tetris?

Okay, I’m going to go punch a wall and play some hangman on paper with some elementary school kids because at least I can die in that game. Makes me want to fire up some Hello Kitty Online for Slaneesh’s sake!

Slaneesh demotivational poster
Slaneesh, worship him/her or Chaos will RAPE you