Micro Machines NES Review

 

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If we were to talk about unofficial NES games, what would spring to mind – maybe Bible Buffet, or Action 52, games that were not exactly renowned for their quality however if those type of games left you feeling like the only quality was released on official cartridges (*ahem* read The Simpsons’ games *ahem*) then fear ye not – along came a company that cared about the quality of the games, and one of those games in particular linger long in the hazy memories of the console. The company, well in the UK were known as Codemasters and the game, the miniature racing game Micro Machines. Does the game make you want to vroom off into the sunset or off a large cliff.

Who said it was Zelda that came in gold cartridges?

Who said it was Zelda that came in gold cartridges?

Micro Machines was released on the console in 1991, and like most of the Camerica/Codemasters cartridges it was not on the usual grey NES cart’s, no Codemasters had a habit of putting their games onto uniquely designed cartridges. This could be in the form of large square carts, or small rectangle carts with a triangular piece of plastic drooping down, having to put another cartridge in a slot to ensure it works. There are reason’s that the games were not released officially, with Codemasters being the UK distributor of the Camerica series, however in Micro Machines it was worthy of an official release.

Micro Machines is a racing game based off the popular toys, that has an overhead view in the races. You’re not just racing Formula 1 cars as perceived on the box oh no, you could be racing in speed boats, monster trucks, pretty much anything and everything you can think of. Except a Segway, that’s a disappointment but to be fair they weren’t invented when this game was released. The idea, with pretty much all racing games is to race against three opponents and get to the finish line first having completed three laps. If you win three races in a row, you get taken to a bonus stage where it is just yourself and your driving abilities in order to complete the lap in under the allotted time given – if you succeed you get an extra life, while not completing it means, well, you’re a failure.  Sorry to disappoint you kids.

A fine bunch of racers if ever I saw one

A fine bunch of racers if ever I saw one

When you turn on the game, you get the option of playing a 1 player game or go head-to-head in a two player game, so kudos for actually making a game two player – as mentioned before too few games on the console where two player, and I don’t count games like Super Mario Bros and Wrecking Crew in that as they were turn-based and not co-operative local multiplayer such as Battletoads. When choosing 1 player mode, you then get to choose your character from a surly crew of some stereotypes such as the Chinese character being called Chen and the really cool looking dude being called Spider – it doesn’t say if the differing characters play differently, so for now it seems personal choice who you select. You then enter a qualifying race on a speedboat where you first get to grips with the racing and deal with the simplistic yet effective controls. As mentioned above, over three laps finish second and above and you progress – if you don’t you lose a life, and only having three lives to start with you really should be saving these for the later levels.

With skill and determination that will soon get full - or cheats...

With skill and determination that will soon get full – or cheats…

The controls are typical of racing games released on the NES – simplistic yet effective. The A button accelerates the car, the D-Pad steers your car and to brake, well as much as it’s a presumption it is the B button why would you want to brake? Obviously you might say to slow your car down, but personally it seems more effective to just release the accelerator button and drift round the corner. The controls are reactive and in fact the handling of the vehicle can change depending on the vehicle used in the race, for example, the Warrior-type trucks used in the garage-based levels have slow acceleration but turn really well, whilst the sports cars will race off at the speed of light so turning at full speed will make you drift off the edge losing valuable places to your opponents. Graphically, the colours are bold and contrasting and it feels like the developers took great care designing not only the vehicles (though it is a shame your vehicle is an exotic shade of grey) but in terms of the levels your racing on. Rather than racing around a race track like a Formula 1 car, or in fact dirt tracks like Ironman Stewart’s racing, your treated to everyday environments such as breakfast tables with orange juice slowing you down, garages where globs of glue slow you down and in the bathtub navigating round bubbles and impending doom moments such as the bathplug and swirling around in it. It was a really good touch of the developers to use everyday scenarios for their miniature vehicles, though the thought crosses that when you leave a room, you never know if miniature vehicles will be racing round dodging the mess you left behind!

White cars, where is this game set - Essex??

White cars, where is this game set – Essex??

For an unofficial cart that was never officially endorsed by Nintendo, Micro Machines is a fine example of a game, not just a racing game but a video game in general, done well. The graphics are bold and advanced for the console and are aesthetically pleasing on the eye and makes you feel like you are on the breakfast table racing round. The music and sound effects suit the game well and the controls as mentioned many, many times in the review are responsive and makes you feel that if you do come second or not do as well as you think, it’s due to player error and lack of skill. The game can be found on your favourite online four-lettered word acution sites so if you do get the chance, do add this to your collection and bask in the knowledge your sticking it to Nintendo, with their grey carts and the seal of quality, who needs them when you got games like Micro Machines and Action 52!…wait….

Rating – 5 out of 5

Super Sports Challenge NES Review

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Today being Father’s Day, what better way of spending the day then with your son or daughter, picking up that NES controller and playing a 2 player co-op game? Today isn’t the day to be a lone hero playing Die Hard, or carrying on with Super Mario Bros 2, no today is the day of the offspring (not the US punk band). Yes you could pop in Contra or Super Mario Bros where your partner in crime will let you down due to their inexperience, so why not relax with a compendium of sports to play together with no hint of competitiveness whatsoever! And while your at it, why not play it on a cartridge that looks nothing like a regular NES cart?

I'll leave it to you to decide where to stick this...

I’ll leave it to you to decide where to stick this…

In 1991 Codemasters released Super Sports Challenge for the NES in Europe (or Quattro Sports if you’re in the US, released by Camerica), and wasn’t the most aesthetically-pleasing of carts. Codemasters in the early days published games by Camerica, who had a habit of designing games that bypassed the security chip on the console which irked a few people at Nintendo. As a result of this, Codemasters didn’t release their carts in gold or shiny silver, they designed the game so that you had to have an official cartridge placed on top and then inserting the behemoth into your console thus bypassing the lock-out chip. So was the result worth it? The game is split into 4 sports:

Baseball

Baseball

BMX

BMX

Football (NOT Soccer!)

Football (NOT Soccer!)

Tennis

Tennis

Starting with Baseball, you can choose from a number of worldwide teams to be and what is also good is that from the main menu you can view the stats of each time – that is if you know your stats, with points here and averages there. The rules of the game need no explanation but to win at the game can be quite difficult as it is hard to hit a home run. The graphics look bold and with good contrasting colours, and the animation with the pitcher is done well, however there is no detail in the faces of the players which may be something minor, but that coupled with the difficulty of hitting a home run it may be a game for statisticians only. Pick up Bases Loaded instead.

BMX Simulator takes you in control of Jason, Larissa or Bud depending on the number of players you have (with a maximum of 3) and choosing the difficulty of the game. The graphics here unfortunately do look bland and can strain the eyes with its brownish bland hue and at times difficult to navigate which way you are supposed to race in. There seems to be no clear signs unless you follow the competitors around. The bike can be difficult to steer if going at full speed, meaning your more likely going to crash into the walls than racing at full throttle. An average game but Super Off Road is better.

Soccer (or better known as Football) is your standard football game that graphically looks and plays like Super Kick Off with the overhead view. Although it doesn’t have USSR (instead having Russia with the Soviet Flag) it does have West Germany so being that the game was released in 1991 it may have needed to update the selection of countries. The game again is an average footballing game, personally Goal! is better however the game is very playable and what is nice is that every now and again it flashes on the screen that “Remember – A is to pass and B is to shoot”, I don’t know if takes pity on you or is an example of on screen controls that is now characterised in today’s games?

Pro Tennis unfortunately shares the same issues as baseball – bold yet bland details and bad controls – it’s difficult enough to serve the ball let alone having a full rally. It has been said before and it has been said again – graphics are not the be all and end all of a game as long as you have solid controls and good gameplay. Pro Tennis has none of this, which is a shame but you’re best off even with black box Tennis rather than this version.

I'm not sure Clough and Souness would sit down and slog out a match on this game

I’m not sure Clough and Souness would sit down and slog out matches on this game

As different as the sports are on this game, they all share the same characteristics: Bland average graphics, upbeat jaunty music, broken controls and the distinct inability to actually win any of the matches you compete in. Finally, if you wanted to change the game you’re playing, rather than pressing the reset button to get back to the main menu, you have to turn the console off and turn it back on. You could argue that with stand-alone games you reset and it takes you back to that game’s menu, however with this game, it would be nice to make the selection without turning the console off and sometimes blowing into the cartridge to make it work!

Overall, although the idea of having 4 games on one cart is a great idea (Super Mario All Stars anyone?…), in reality Super Sports Challenge was executed badly. There are better alternative sports games to play, and your not saving time by swapping carts, as you need to go to the console to turn it off rather than resetting the machine when you want to play a different game. Yes there are better 2 player games (ahem Contra ahem Battletoads) to play but if you like the idea of a challenge, then this game is it – a challenge trying to hit a freaking home run or serve a tennis ball! Get out the black box gaming collection and have fun with them instead, I’m off to play with R.O.B and try to get him to call me Dad.

Rating – 2 out of 5