Ever since the massive disappointment of Micro Machines World Series, there has been a void that has needed filling in gamers’ library. Tiny Racer on Nintendo Switch is the latest offering to try and fit the bill; arcade micro racing. After my time with the game though, the void remains.
At least Micro Machines had a bit of personality to it. Everything in Tiny Racer feels lacklustre and non-descript, from the moment you launch the game and into the bland menu, to choosing your car, none of which have any stats or discernible differences between each other except for their appearance. They all drive the same, and that is not very well.
The UI is terribly programmed as well. A typical screen will have left or right buttons on the bottom to navigate the various options such as which racetrack to race on, along with a Back button at the top. Pressing either left or right or the B button on your Joy-Con doesn’t work as you would inspect; the B button does nothing, and directional inputs just manoeuvre around the menu. You have to highlight the left or right option on screen and then press the A button to navigate. Doing so feels very archaic.
There are eight tournaments to unlock – though the UI only ever shows three at a time and you need to cycle through them to see the more difficult ones – and only by completing these do you unlock tracks. There are 15 tracks in Tiny Racer in total, with only the more interesting tracks unlocking at the higher difficulties. In fact, the first two tournaments you will play feature five tracks that are almost identical in their appearance.
Later tracks will have you driving around kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms in true Micro Machines style, but good luck getting to the tournaments that unlock these as your patience will have all but evaporated by then.
And then you get to the racing itself, that is best described as skiddy. You only have an accelerate and brake button, there is no drifting in Tiny Racer. You need an excellent start though; because all cars have identical top speeds, the beginning to a race is absolute carnage. If you manage to avoid the crashes and collisions – even the tiniest bump can send your car veering off course – then you have likely already won the race. If you end up 5th or 6th after the first corner, it is an uphill battle and you need to rely on your opponents making a mistake.
And because all cars share the same top speed, they all make the same incredibly grating engine noise.
Despite there being a lack of power-ups, the tracks are fraught with dangers, some as a by-product of a number of bugs. On several occasions my car has hit invisible objects on the track and been thrown off course completely. Sometimes over the edge of the track altogether. This could be down to the haphazard nature that some of these courses feel like they have been thrown together.
That doesn’t spell game over though, as you can quickly respawn your car without losing too much time. But it will be something that you do a lot of. Many of the earlier tracks have vicious jumps that no matter what you try, your car will never land them and will require a respawn. Seriously, it is a wonder I ever won a race with the number of respawns I needed to do.
These same early tracks are also based on the same environment and are a real mish-mash of track assets. In the same way a developer could release a track creator for players to make their own stages, the designs in Tiny Racer feel the same way. Certain track elements disappear into the mountain – or indeed suddenly sprout out of it – and the player must sometimes work out which way to go next. Roads will lead straight to a section of rubble to traverse, or an impromptu wooden section can leave players utterly confused at the layout.
Away from tournament mode there are the other usual fares: Arcade, Time Trial and 2-player local multiplayer. Ultimately though, the price of £8.99 for this sparse content is a bit on the steep side.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much good to say about Tiny Racer on Nintendo Switch. It feels cheaply made, the driving mechanics are poor, and the track designs feel user-generated. The later tracks add some joy but to get to them there is too much dross and unengaging racing to endure. In a sad state of affairs, if Micro Machines World Series was added to the Switch roster, it would be easier to recommend over Tiny Racer.
Release date: July 2020
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review)
Thanks to: IceTorch Interactive