Back in the early 1990’s, there wasn’t many games that spent as much time in my beloved Amiga 1200’s floppy drive as Codemaster’s addictive top-down racer, Micro Machines, did. Sadly, the original license may have gone but that hasn’t stopped them rebooting the series under the alias of Toybox Turbos. With most of what made the classic game great still intact, I took to the chaotic table tops and some annoyingly messy floors to see if there was more to be found here than fond memories.
Game: Toybox Turbos
Reviewed on: PC (review code provided)
That nostalgia is something probably best dealt with from the get-go. Toybox Turbos instantly feels familiar, from the charming visuals packed with quaint details, right through to the handling of the toy vehicles. For those who aren’t acquainted with the original racer, there has been a slew of Micro Machines-inspired titles such as iOS copy cats and the brilliant Motorstorm RC, for example, that work on the original concept Codemaster’s built back in the day to great effect.
The basic premise remains as equally simple, too. Grab your toy vehicle fresh out the box, customise its colour if you like, then race it across tables set up for a kids party or snooker tables dodging corner pockets and balls. The colourful artwork shows a wonderful attention to detail as you skid on spilt drinks and pop from toasters, all whilst sliding onto wonky stationary acting as bridges between worktops – it’s brilliantly executed and such a charming idea, even after all this time.
Controls are about as accessible as they could ever be with simple directional buttons allowing to move forwards/backwards and left/right. The speed and handling depend on your vehicle choice which all own different stats and classes; a Construction vehicle might have a bit more weight over a speedster that has a little more in control and speed departments, for instance. Also, each class has its own set of tournaments, such as the ‘Public Transport Tear-Up’ or ‘Street Car Hustle’ and there’s a plethora of vehicle types in each category from bulldozers all the way to school busses.
In fairness, early on especially, the choice of vehicle feels a little superfluous because nearly any diddy racer you pick will get the job done one way or another. You’ll most likely find something you like and just stick with it until the next tournament. However, by collecting coins thrown around the tracks you’ll be able to unlock other vehicles regardless and there’s still plenty of enjoyment in the game’s excellently balanced handling that sits nicely somewhere between forgiving (for beginners) and rewarding (for more accomplished players).
Around the track you’ll also find weapons to frustrate your opponents into an early grave with, although it’s something that hasn’t been developed quite as well as it could have been. For instance, one power-up sticks a mallet on your vehicle that you can use to bash other vehicles and another will allow you to drop mines; it all feels a little out of context with the charm and detail of the world the game creates. In essence, it becomes less ‘Toy Story’ and more ‘video game with some overused mechanics thrown in’, when perhaps using the game’s unique setting as a foundation for combat instead, would have kept up the toy facade to more pleasing effect.
Each tournament throws up a bunch of different race types such as normal races, overtaking races and time trials. The Elimination races add a little extra spice to proceedings by giving each player a point when they outrun the opponent – reduce the other guy to zero points and you’ll win. ‘Escape’ is also quite entertaining from a pure pressure point of view – there’s a wash of water chasing your tail as you navigate the track, go too slow and you’re race is over. The variety is certainly good enough to keep things from growing stagnant too quickly.
That variety dissipates, somewhat, when you enter the multiplayer mode. It’s easily the most appealing part of the older games and certainly has endless potential online for some quick local/online party play here and there. The problem is, you’re limited to a single mode which seems mind boggling when there’s so much fun to be had across the other modes with friends. There’s no progression asides from achievements, either. With no coins to collect for unlocking new vehicles, the whole mode ends up being simply for short-term kicks, rather than a long-term investment.
Although it’s difficult to fault an old formula re-produced to near perfection, I can’t help but feel more could have done to polish up design choices that were only designed that way because of limitations of a time period. Then, of course, there is the lack of depth and variety to multiplayer and a tired, out of context weapon system that didn’t really add anything to the experience from where I sat. That said, Toybox Turbos remains a great hark-back to a unique, superb, and ultimately charming racer that still hasn’t forgotten that knack of bringing you back for one more lap around the breakfast table.