Man, Micro Machines: Mini Challenge Mayhem REALLY feels like a missed opportunity. All the developers had to do was re-create the gameplay of the original titles from the 16-bit era and they would have had a virtual reality hit. Instead, they tried to re-invent the formula by adding a slot car-style twist to the racing gameplay, all whilst eliminating the competitive aspect by removing rival racers. Don’t get me wrong, it can have its fun moments, but it won’t take long for players to see how shallow the experience can be.
Check out some screenshots down below:
As expected, Micro Machines: Mini Challenge Mayhem sees players taking a bite-sized vehicle and racing it across toy-like courses within environments such as a bedroom, an arcade, a construction site, or, if you use the Quest’s mixed reality features, your own home. The tracks are topsy-turvy and made up of plastic pieces, which helps capture the vibe of the ‘homemade’ courses that the series has always been known for. The locales are a lot less creative than the Micro Machines titles of yesteryear though, so don’t expect to race across the likes of a pool table, a bathtub full of bubbles, or a kitchen table with stray cereal making up the course. They still look decent with enough stand out features and familiar sights to spot to ensure they’re not boring, but they don’t feel as special to race across as the tracks from yesteryear.
There’s also one big change that really affects the experience: the racing. You’re no longer racing against rival drivers in top-down action where the quickest (and often sharpest) driver will succeed, but instead drive solo in slot car-style action where your biggest worry will be ensuring you slow down enough when hitting bends so that you don’t launch off the track. You control the speed of your vehicle by pulling the trigger… and that’s it, really. If you don’t slow down enough when hitting corners? You’ll crash. And if you slow down too much when hitting jumps? You won’t make it across the jump and, again, will crash.
“You’re no longer racing against rival drivers in top-down action where the quickest (and often sharpest) driver will succeed, but instead drive solo in slot car-style action where your biggest worry will be ensuring you slow down enough when hitting bends so that you don’t launch off the track.”
It’s a simple setup and one that will be perfect for younger players (my own nephew had a go of the game and really liked it), but those hoping for a thrilling racing experience that lives up to the Micro Machines name will be disappointed by just how limited the gameplay is. Controlling just the speed of your vehicle gets old fast, with the gameplay loop growing incredibly repetitive when you’re working through Time Trials that lack that competitive twist. Worst still, if you miss some of the jumps on a track, it’s impossible to get enough speed to hit them the next time around when you respawn, forcing you to restart the course completely. It’s a massive oversight by the developers and sours what can already be a pretty dull experience.
There are a couple of other game modes that change up the experience a little, with Stunt Missions focusing on earning points by jumping through rings on courses and Demolition Missions encouraging players to cause chaos by crashing into obstacles. It’s a kooky little twist to the formula that’ll see players taking a different approach to the action, but again, with little else to control other than your vehicle’s speed, they won’t keep your attention for too long.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Whilst the racing action of Micro Machines: Mini Challenge Mayhem falls short of the mark, I was a big fan of the track building. There are plenty of pieces you can put in place to make insane twisty-turvy tracks that have their own hazards and challenges to overcome, whilst neat little features like the portals feel especially creative when you’re creating a track in mixed reality. It made me feel like a kid all over again, whilst the racing itself was always a bit more exciting when done over your own creation. And the unlockables you can earn along the way? They’ll definitely incentivise players to get stuck in, especially with the varied vehicles you can get. There are three different camera perspectives to use too, with third-person, first-person, and a diorama-like view overlooking the action. They’re all cool in their own little ways, so it’ll come down to a personal preference to decide which one works best for you.
Despite some of its positives, I couldn’t help but to find Micro Machines: Mini Challenge Mayhem underwhelming. I know slot car-style racing can work in virtual reality because a game called Tiny Trax did it so well back in 2017, but this lacked the excitement and buzz seen there. Maybe it’s because there’s no one to race against? Maybe it’s because you only really have to control the speed of your vehicle? Or maybe it’s because it doesn’t feel like a Micro Machines game? Either way, it’s hard not to be disappointed, and whilst Micro Machines: Mini Challenge Mayhem isn’t a complete disaster, it is hard to recommend.
Micro Machines: Mini Challenge Mayhem Review
Micro Machines: Mini Challenge Mayhem lacks the excitement and creativity seen in its forebearers, with its slot car-style racing missing that special buzz that the series is known for. When I think of Micro Machines, I think of quick-paced racing action where I’m jostling with rival racers across imaginative miniature tracks full of hazards and real-world objects – unfortunately, this is nothing like that, with it instead feeling dull with its simplified approach to driving.
It isn’t a complete disaster and it’ll definitely appeal to some players (especially youngsters who are unfamiliar with gaming), whilst the track builder is especially cool to use in mixed reality. Overall, though? It’s hard not to be disappointed in this underwhelming virtual reality revival of a classic racing series.
Developer: WIMO Games
Publisher: WIMO Games
Platform(s): Meta Quest 3 (Reviewed), Meta Quest 2, PC VR