Things were different when we were small. Instead of staring at a tiny screen all day, we got together and stared at a slightly larger one. Sometimes, we sat there for hours and hours.
Being small has its benefits. You see the world in a different light, with a sense of scale and wonder that’s hard to replicate when you’ve grown up. Things that wouldn’t entertain you now gave you endless pleasure as a child.
So it is with mixed feelings that we greet the rebirth of Micro Machines, one of the greatest multiplayer games of the Mega Drive era and a game that many Irish children spent countless hours playing in the 90s.
As a child, Micro Machines was a gateway into a tiny kingdom, one that showed you the world from the perspective of an ant, or (in this case) a miniature racing vehicle.
It was a double whammy of exploration and competitive racing. It was Honey I Shrunk the Tank And Now It’s Racing On My Pool Table.
The new Micro Machines will be very familiar to fans of the originals. In fact, graphics aside, not much has changed at all.
You still race across miniaturised landscapes like breakfast tables, gardens and pool tables, with the race tracks drawn in what looks like chalk, making the whole experience feel like children at play. There are three primary modes — race, elimination and battle.
The first two involve racing around the tracks and trying to come out ahead of your opponents, while the second has players battle it out in an arena with weapons and power ups.
As an adult, however, your perspective doesn’t necessarily shrink with the size of the vehicles. We are less forgiving than our younger selves. As an adult, Micro Machines soon goes under the microscope for different reasons.
For a start, the game is now centred around online play — to be expected in today’s world. At first, this seems like an exciting development for the series, with quickplay and ranking modes available, but soon something starts to feel amiss.
It’s not the controls (which are just as janky as ever), but something at the core of the game itself. Micro Machines, you realise, was a game designed for playing with friends, sitting on the same couch as you — not faceless players online.
The fun in Micro Machines was your friend’s reaction when you pipped them to the edge of the screen. That experience is entirely lost in the online-centric modern version.
There’s no shame in resurrecting Micro Machines and trying to capture that sense of miniaturised, toy-box fun that the originals did so well. The new version does a fine job of mirroring the landscapes and humour of the series.
And while it still offers the opportunity for local couch play, the reality is that the new Micro Machines experience is built around online play, which the limited field of view and poor controls simply aren’t suited to.
Online may have been the next step for Micro Machines — but sometimes bigger isn’t better.
The Master Trials
Nintendo were thinking big when they made Breath of the Wild, the most expansive Zelda we’ve yet seen. But their season pass for downloadable content seems quite the opposite.
Part one, The Master Trials, has now been released and it doesn’t offer much in the way of content.
There’s a hard mode with more difficult enemies, but that’s only going to appeal to the hardcore players. It increases their defences and gives them regenerating health.
There are 45 new challenge trials to complete, which are the real meat of the Master Trials, but don’t offer any new surprises. Finally, there are some new items, the most useful of which lets you see all the areas of the map you have explored during your time with the game.
On its own, The Master Trials is a hard sell, but Zelda’s downloadable content comes in two parts, which must be purchased together. For that reason, anyone on the fence should wait until the second part is released later this year.
It promises new story content (centred on Princess Zelda’s guardian heroes) and a new dungeon to tackle. If the second part delivers, then the €20 price-tag might start to look like small change.
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