Long before they published blockbuster racing games like Dirt and Colin McRae Rally, Codemasters made a fortune on their Micro Machines line. This top-down driving game wasn't about who had the fastest time around the lap, but rather who was able to stay in the on course without falling behind. Players earned points based on bumping the competition off the screen, creating one of the most ingenious takes on the competitive racing genre.
Keen Games, the developers behind TNT Racers, shares my nostalgic love for Micro Machines. Their new PlayStation 3 game (a port of a year old Xbox Live Arcade, Wii and PSP title) drips with the memories of classic 8-bit racers. TNT Racers offers an exciting top-down racing experience that is just different enough to keep Codemasters'' lawyers at bay.
This is a cartoony racing game where players zip around a variety of locales trying to earn the most points. Much like Micro Machines, TNT Racers requires players to knock the competing drivers off the screen. You can do this by speeding ahead and leaving everybody in the dust or by using one of the game's diverse weapons scattered along the course. The weapons include the ability to speed up time, lay down mines, squirt oil on to the field and plenty of other attacks that feel like they were taking straight from the newest Mario Kart sequel.
There are a few variations on the typical race. In one mode you will be asked to earn as many points as possible before time runs out. You do this by picking up coins, knocking the opponents off the screen and using the weapons pick-ups. Another event wants you to run over the objects scattered around the course. In yet another mode you'll be asked to make it all the way around the course in a certain amount of time. And if that's not enough, sometimes they'll throw in obstacles just to make the whole thing more difficult.
The challenges are presented in a linear path, which means that you'll have to beat one to unlock the next. Usually this wasn't a problem, but there were a few occasions where I ran into a brick wall thanks to an especially hard event. Instead of being able to try my luck at a different challenge, I was forced to keep retrying the same stage over and over until I got it right. This is a problem made worse by the fluctuating difficulty. I found more than a few tough races sandwiched between two easy events.
There are three different speeds to choose from, each with their own set of challenges to complete. This is how you unlock new cars (which includes everything from a truck to a space ship) and levels. There's more than enough incentive to speed through the single-player content, even if it's mostly to unlock multiplayer content. Sadly, the three challenge paths are over too quickly and don't offer much depth.
A year after it was released on the Xbox 360, Wii and PSP, TNT Racers is making an appearance on the PlayStation 3. Inspired by Micro Machines and other 8-bit driving games, this brand new PSN offers a colorful world and a bunch of exciting (albeit frustrating) races to complete. Too bad the developers didn't spend the year making improvements to an already strong concept!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!