20 May 2022
Micro Machines Mayhem
Back in the early nineties Codemasters released Micro Machines on Nintendo and Sega consoles. Based on the popular line of miniature toy vehicles, Micro Machines saw players speeding around tracks littered with household items, across pool tables and kitchens, and generally revelling in its addictive gameplay. At around the same time, I – and probably many others – received the first of what was to become an annual inclusion in my Christmas stocking: a plastic sliding puzzle, destined to fall apart before the end of the holidays. Fast forward a few decades and we have the folks at Horrible Guild attempting to merge these two nuggets of nostalgia, and transfer them to real tabletops in the form of Tiny Turbo Cars.
The adorably tactile Tiny Turbo Cars is a programmable movement race game where players will be pitting their minuscule machines against one another as they careen through a hazard-strewn house. Two to four players will be choosing from a generous lineup of eight race cars, each with a unique special ability and meeple, before attempting to navigate a drag strip constructed from up to six brightly illustrated tiles. Along the way they will have to contend with carpets, spillages, and a plethora of toys and other obstacles before one player crosses the finish line to become the winner.
Acting as the interface for all of this frantic fun though are the aforementioned sliding puzzles - here, novelly reimagined as controllers. These controllers were at the forefront of Horrible Guild’s advertising for the game last year, and people’s attentions were unequivocally grabbed with the Kickstarter campaign ultimately garnering close to £100,000.
Each turn players will be handed one of these controllers beset with a randomised array of symbols. The minutiae of each symbol are detailed in the rules but they essentially boil down to moving forwards, diagonally, or jumping, alongside options for turbo boosts, firing missiles, and boosting the efficacy of a subsequent command. After manipulating the puzzle, the central two rows become that round’s programmed movement with the final player to do so incurring a penalty.
Much like the gameplay of peers such as RoboRally and Colt Express, turns in Tiny Turbo Cars are rarely performed flawlessly. The combination of tricky puzzle, tense timed elements, and unpredictable opponents ensures that chaos plays a large part in the game’s momentum, helping to keep players engaged from start to finish. This chaotic tension is particularly strong in the nail-biting moments leading up to players crossing the finish line and it’s rare for a game to go by without its fair share of laughs and exasperated sighs.
Undoubtably, Tiny Turbo Cars’ core idea is fantastic. The implementation of a tactile, physical puzzle immediately puts a playful and original spin on the mechanics of other programmed movement games, and paired with a charming aesthetic and incredibly simple rule set, it seems little could go wrong. Unfortunately though, there is a caveat to Tiny Turbo Cars’ ingenuity.
As mentioned, chaos is to be expected, even embraced, in these types of games, but with an admittedly fiddly controller acting as an interface, this chaos occasionally descends into tedium. Don’t get me wrong, there is a definite level of enjoyment to the tactility presented by the controllers, but their operation is stifled by a lack of user-friendliness. Sections regularly become stuck, refusing to slide into place and requiring time-consuming jiggling, prying, and nudging.
In truth, this flaw is hardly game breaking but unfortunate nonetheless.
PLAY IT? MAYBE
A fun and fascinating game, albeit an occasionally physically fiddly one.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED ROBORALLY
A more hands-on approach to programmed movement that’s well worth a try if you’re a fan of this classic.
Designer: 4Brains4Games & Hjalmar Hach
Publisher: Horrible Guild
Time: 40 minutes
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