Note: I have not completed the entire game, however I have played every mode and I believe I have seen enough to give my review. Should my opinions change upon further play I will update the article.
I wasn’t expecting to see Micro Machines when I booted up the Oculus Store last night. I know that sometimes bigger releases don’t get pushed out on Wednesday with the rest of the riff-raff and so I usually check the store several times on Thursday but after checking several times today and seeing nothing I figured we were done for this week. Then, mostly out of habit and boredom, I checked the store again and there it was. And I became excited. I’ve never played the old Micro Machines but I know that those who did were often pretty big fans of it and I thought maybe this would be the Gear VR’s version of BlazeRush, which is an incredible game and have it or something like it on the Gear VR would be lit, or whatever the heck you kids are saying these days.
My excitement only grew when I saw Coatsink’s name on the title screen. In case you don’t know who they are, they are the development studio that gave us the absolutely brilliant Esper games. Go play them if you haven’t yet. I’m not sure what their level of involvement in this game is since Codemasters is listed as the developer on the Oculus Store. I thought perhaps this was a port of the Android/iOS version and Coatsink just handled the conversion, but after downloading that version and playing for a while, I no longer think that’s the case. It’s quite a bit different. It’s all a big mystery I guess.
My optimism faded a bit when I saw that there was no multiplayer. If you’re planning on keeping track, this is strike one. And, really, for a game like this, it might also be strike two. It’s that big of a strike. Perhaps there will be a multiplayer update later. We’ve seen it before. But this isn’t a dogfighting space game with a story AND a deathmatch mode and I’m reviewing what we have now. Not what we will have. This is a racing game. Races always have more than one participant… I think. Unless you count time trials, which I don’t because it would ruin my point. Sure there are computer players, but beating them isn’t the same. The races are fun, but they could have been more fun.
Strike two… or three, depending on how you counted the last one…let’s go with two just to keep it simple…is the visuals. This was a real missed opportunity. People who frequent this site will probably know that I’m a big fan of scaling the camera. Scaling the camera increases the 3D effect while at the same time making the things that you are looking at appear smaller. There is a sweet spot in VR, which is about an arms length in front of you, and when you scale the camera, more stuff fits into that sweet spot. It doesn’t seem like this was the method used in this game. Everything looks really far away and because of that, less 3D. This isn’t just an aesthetic problem, in many levels it’s a functional one. It’s hard to tell where you are on the track at times or whether your wheels are even on the ground. With some of the lighter vehicles this actually a pretty big problem and can lead to losing the race.
Moving away from the negative for a minute, there is a good amount of content. There are seven levels, each with five races in it. Each level has it’s own cars to unlock as well, but they don’t seem to carry over between races. This isn’t a big deal as the gold required to buy new vehicles is pretty plentiful, at least early in the game. This might change toward the end, I haven’t completed everything yet. The game follows the usual mobile game scoring system of awarding stars based on performance and you can enter any race on the level that you have the stars to enter. This means, if you did well in a level, you can skip all the races and just race the boss at the end. Beating the boss awards you whatever vehicle the boss is (so far I’ve won a hovercraft, a dump truck and a monster truck) and it unlocks the next stage.
When you’re not struggling to see what is going on, the game is actually a lot of fun. In the intro I said that I hoped this would be the Gear VR version of BlazeRush and, when it comes to the weapons, it is. I’m not sure which game borrowed from which but most of the weapons in Micro Machines have an equal in BlazeRush, though the same can not be said in reverse. This isn’t a bad thing. The weapons are fun, I just wish there were more of them. There are things like machine guns, an energy pulse, a giant hammer, a rocket booster and more. I won more than one race at the last second thanks to the weapons. I suppose with human players I would likely lose races at the last second because of them as well, but so far the cpu players have not been overly challenging.
There is more than one kind of event as well. Classic races make up the bulk of the game but there are also time trials, Escape mode, where a line of death chases you around the track and if you cross it the race is over, and Overtake, which requires you to pass a certain number of slower moving vehicles before you finish three laps. The only one of these modes that I don’t care for is Escape. The line begins too close to you and stays there the whole race. One mistake seems to be all it takes to end the race, and mistakes are easy to make.
Micro Machines supports a controller, but it isn’t required. I will admit that when I read that my heart sank. I couldn’t imagine how they were going to make a game like this playable without a controller, but I figured it was going to be terrible and it was going to mean that people with controllers were going to suffer for it. Then I played the game with my controller and it was supported exactly how you would imagine a controller should be supported and I became curious if it was labelled as not required by mistake, so I gave it a try. I am a big supporter of controllers. I think Samsung should increase the price of the Gear VR and include one and then all games should require it. However, this is one game that has done a very good job without a controller. In fact, almost too good. Racing became incredibly easy when I switched over and, it multiplayer is ever added, I will probably use this method. How it works is, there is a green steering wheel where you are looking and the car drives towards it. All you have to do is keep it inside the lines and you’re golden. It’s worth trying, even if you hate playing without a controller.
Finally, there is the price. This game is ten bucks. I’m not sure that it’s worth that. If multiplayer was there, or we knew it was coming eventually, I would say it is. But as it stands now, even with all the content, I don’t think it would take long to complete everything and then there wouldn’t be much replay value. A few weeks ago it might have been more appealing as well, but we’ve had some decent to great games lately. I hope that future updates will fix the problems that I’ve pointed out because this could be a really good game. Until then though, it’s a fine game. Not amazing, but fine.