Little toy cars are still fun with friends.
As I mentioned in my preview of Toybox Turbos, the re-imagining of the classic Micro Machines games from the toy loving race fans at Codemasters, it has been a long time coming. Many a fond gaming memory consists of sitting around a TV with friends, trying to out race each other with little toy cars that also happened to be part of a hugely popular toy range. It really is a retro memory that, in this time of connected consoles and the Internet, may seem quite alien now. Was it really as much fun as it seemed? A simpler time perhaps?
Still, reminiscing aside, Codemasters now want gamers to revisit that simpler time with Toybox Turbos, a top down driving game that is now available on Steam, Xbox360 and PS3. It may be Micro Machines in all but name, but can we really relive the past?
So, straight off the bat, the player is confronted with gloriously colourful, cartoon-like visuals. Sure, the menu system is fairly bare-bones. But it does mean that there is little mucking about before getting your mitts on those lovely toy vehicles. Jumping into the single player game, the player will find themselves having to compete in a variety of different race types, from simple laps to elimination and even boss battles, in various categories. These categories dictate the type of vehicle used, such as public service or construction, and completion allows the player to progress.
Competing earns the player cash to spend on new toy vehicles. Sometimes this will be a necessity in order to compete in a certain class (there are no free toys here), but for the most part it will be to try and find the best suited vehicle for the players racing style. Each category has a selection of different vehicles, including a boss vehicle which has to be beaten in the championships in order to use, and each vehicle will have different stats attached giving the player an idea of how they will race. Speed, handling and weight are the three different stats that all vehicles are rated with, and they can make a difference on the track. Speedy vehicles will zip off from the starting line, whilst those with high handling can take the floaty corners with relative ease. The weighty ones can simply push all competitors aside and go for the win. Players will generally find the right vehicle for their style in each category and stick with them.
Little purple gift boxes that float temptingly around the track provide some added threat and tactics to the races. These boxes contain power ups of the most traditional kind for players to use as they race. Giant hammers that can squish the driver in front, mines that drop from behind the car, or some kind of jet engine designed to give an instant speed boost. The power ups may not be the most imaginative ever to be found in a racing game, but they add a tactical level to the game that keeps things fresh.
Speaking of fresh, the tracks in Toybox Turbos offer some interesting twists. In keeping with the theme, the tracks are set around various environments where you might find toy cars – the kitchen table, on school desks, around a kids train set. They are great fun to look at and provide nice variety, with short cuts to be found. However, to keep the players on their toes, there are also environmental hazards, such as sticky substances to slow the player down, a moving train to avoid, and the ever present chance of simply falling off the table. This keeps things interesting and, once the difficulty begins to ramp up in the later single player championships, means that even more skill and care will be needed to win.
All of this is well and good, but it won’t take long to finish the single player mode. This means it is down to the multiplayer to keep the gamers coming back. With both local and online multiplayer available, and a variety of options when it comes to setting up races, there is certainly plenty to do here. However, the types of race are limited to the single screen affair, where players gain points by leaving other players behind, and they do lose some of their magic through online play.
In reality, Toybox Turbos is at its best when played locally on one of the consoles. The Steam release, whilst fun in single player, just doesn’t have the same sens of zany competition unless the player can gather everyone around their PC, which really isn’t going to happen, is it?
There is no doubt that Toybox Turbos is a loving re-imagination of the Micro Machines games. But the magic of sharing a sofa with your fellow toy racers will be kind of lost for most PC players, and what is left is an enjoyable, but short lived distraction. If you are looking longingly at Toybox Turbos, I would recommend one of the console releases.