Despite its unassuming nature, Micro Machines has always been a love it or hate it experience. I for one have always loved it, especially the later installments that allowed you to play up to eight players on one TV. There's just an innocent fun attached to these dinky cars (and boats, tanks and every other type of vehicle you can imagine), the type of pure joy you don't get from more serious racing games. I love Micro Machines. I always have and I likely always will. But as much as I liked this franchise, I did worry a little when I plugged the cartridge in my Sega Master System.
Thankfully I had nothing to worry about, because this 8-bit version is a solid racing game that is fun when playing alone and in big groups. Well, maybe not "big" groups ... but the game is definitely fun when playing with a friend. Sadly there is no eight player mode in this Master System version, but if you can get around that one shortcoming you'll find that this Micro Machines game is well worth checking out.
The concept of Micro Machines is simple; you race your RC-style vehicle around a narrow course trying to come in first. What sets this game apart from all of the other realistic racers, is that the courses are usually drawn paths on everyday objects. You'll find yourself racing on a kitchen table, outside on the asphalt, in the bathtub and many other creative locations. You'll also find that each one of these locations has their own real world obstacles to avoid. For instance, when driving on the kitchen table you'll have to avoid oranges and plates, while the bathtub level has you avoiding rubber duckies. It's all very cute, yet practical. And best of all, it will instantly remind you of the days when you could get hours of entertainment out of these teeny tiny cars.
In the standard challenge mode you are given a few lives and then asked to come in first over a couple dozen different race courses. That sounds simple enough, but the three other opponents aren't fond of losing. They'll do whatever they can to win, including ramming you off the course, into the water or into whatever other obstacle that gets in your way. Thankfully the computer-controlled opponents make mistakes, so falling off the table or driving into a makeshift river won't keep you out of contention. In fact, you can mess up many times and still have a good shot at coming in first. That's the joy of a game like this, you always feel like first place is attainable.
If you get bored going through the different challenges, you can change the way you play and go head to head against either a friend or the computer. In this mode it doesn't matter who comes in first, what is important is that you don't get too far behind. When racing head to head the camera will always follow the person in the lead, which means that if you get too far behind you'll exit the screen. If that happens, then you lose a point. Lose enough points and the other player will win. The object here is to always be first and make sure that it's your opponent that gets knocked out of the screen.
This head to head mode is definitely the most exciting way to play the game, especially when going up against a real opponent. You never know what's going to happen from round to round, which is what keeps it fresh and exciting. Unfortunately you can't go head to head against more than one other player, so you'll have to put up with the one on one battles. These races are fun, but after you've played this mode with eight players it's hard to go back to the standard two player set-up.
Playing the game is simple, though the controls may give some gamers a headache. The game controls like a standard RC-controlled car. That is, left and right will always turn you left and right, but you have to pay attention to which direction your car is facing. If, for instance, you're driving south, then it will appear as left is right and right is left. Once you get over this learning curve you'll quickly discover that Micro Machines is a fun and addictive little racing game.
The graphics won't be winning any awards, but they do a good job of conveying the scale of the races. The cars are understandably small, but more importantly, the backgrounds are detailed and you'll never have any trouble figuring out what everything is supposed to be. On the audio front, the music isn't very good and the sound effects can get incredibly annoying. All in all the presentation is a mixed back, but Micro Machines was never known for its amazing graphics and sound.
If you're looking for a great racing game on your Sega Master System then you need not look any further than Micro Machines. The game's overhead perspective works best on this type of hardware, and it features tons of different courses and locations to race on. Best of all, this is an exciting two player racing game, which is more than you can say about most racers on the 8-bit Master System. It's not without a few problems, but Micro Machines is a must buy for anybody who loves racing games and their Master System.