Toybox Turbos

Toybox Turbos

These machines are certainly micro in spirit, just not in name.

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If you remember the early days of Micro Machines with a nostalgic smile then Toybox Turbos will certainly be of interest to you. Codemasters' game picks up where Micro Machines V4 left off; it's the sequel in all but name. What's different is the up-to-date graphics and the modernised camera angle, but if you played V4 you'll certainly know what you're getting into before you even download this digital-only title.

There's two sides to Toybox Turbos, a single-player campaign and the multiplayer element. The single-player mode has you racing across seven different stages, each asking increasingly tricky questions. Within in each stage there's a variety of different activities to occupy yourself with, from standard four-car races, to time attack solo endeavours, and more creative offerings that throw in a little variety to the mix.

There's actually not a huge number of modes, and they're regularly recycled. At one point you'll be tasked with overtaking a certain number of cars, at another event you'll have to escape a relentless wave that chases you round and round until eventually you're submerged, or you've got to hit ticking clocks and buy yourself more time to complete three laps. At least the same events appear on different tracks, which keeps them fresh.

At the end of each race, depending on how you do, you're awarded some gold stars. You're either handed none, one, two or three. During the races you also pick up gold coins that are littered around the track, and these coins can be spent unlocking a variety of toy cars with which to race with later on.

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When you've driven your way through the events in one of the seven stages, you're then confronted with the final race, the boss battle if you will. Here the format changes slightly, and you're both given four points. You must either race so far ahead that the boss drops off the screen, or you must take them out or knock them off the track. Do so and you get and point added to your tally, and one is taken from them. The first to eight points wins.

These end of stage contests can go on for quite a while, and when this happens they change up the rules and the loser doesn't drop a point upon defeat, and it becomes a more straightforward race to the end. These classically-styled boss encounters also form the core of the multiplayer. We're not massive fans of the mode when played against AI. For a start there's no incentive to battle on if you lose the first round, because by restarting you're instantly in a better position than you were before. Also, playing against real opponents at least you can exchange a bit of banter, but against the calculated movements of the AI, it's simply not as fun. There's not the same satisfaction when you win, and it's not funny when you lose.

As you make your way through the seven stages you'll come across a selection of different tracks, all themed with various household backgrounds. There's some lovely little circuits in there, with the racing line weaving between amusing obstacles. On one level you might be racing through the kitchen, avoiding a perilous drop into the washing up, and in the next race you'll be scooting around a pool table or vaulting over a homemade volcano. In some of the tracks the dynamic is changed by the introduction of weapons - hammers, mines, electric shocks, machine guns (although your opponents often don't use their weapons for some strange reason). These can be grabbed at certain points, and well-timed attacks or deftly positioned traps can be hugely influential when vying for pole position.

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The tracks themselves look great with vibrant colours and some interesting pieces of scenery acting as focal points. They can be viewed from the iconic Micro Machines top-down perspective, or the new dynamic camera angle on offer, which is actually easier to navigate, even if it doesn't pull on the same sense of nostalgia. Visually it's playful and full of little details, shortcuts, and dangerous drops, traps and obstacles. Our main complaint is that there's not enough risks taken with the various designs, and nice moments like racing into a toaster and being "popped" onto the next part of the track are the exception, not the rule. It felt like there was much more room for extravagant design.

The cars are an eclectic bunch. There's plenty to unlock (with the gold coins earned along the way) and each can be customised via new paint jobs. The handling of each vehicle is dictated by three different preset factors, and while picking the right car for the right job can help sometimes, often being the fastest is enough. The cars themselves, to varying degrees, have very floaty handling, and drift welcomingly around corners. It's no simulation that's for sure; it's an enjoyable arcade racer and it keeps the formula simple.

The single-player experience can be completed in a few short hours; there's not a lot to it. The real longevity in this package (and bear in mind it's a digital game and reasonably priced) is going to come from the multiplayer. It's certainly the standout part of the game.

You can compete with up to four people, both local and online. Local multiplayer is a hoot - undoubtedly the best way to play - if the competitors are evenly matched. Existing track knowledge ensures a considerable advantage, at least at first, but even newcomers will be able to get their eye in quite quickly. If you've got spare controllers, Toybox Turbos will make for an excellent party game. The contests are quick, and there's plenty of opportunity for screwing over your friends in hilarious style.

Toybox Turbos

Venturing online was more of a mixed bag. The netcode felt a little laggy at times, with other players' cars behaving in odd ways, with unnatural movements that we'd not seen in the single-player or during local play. When it works, as with local, it's glorious fun, and rubbing salt in the wounds of a beaten friend never gets old. That said, playing with strangers is about as fulfilling as racing the bosses.

It's still early days so you'd expect busy servers, and we didn't struggle to get matches even if they weren't always full (and bots fill in the gaps and replace those who quit early), although there was the odd glitchy moment or jerky sequence of action that undermined the experience.

The most frustrating thing is the lack of variety when it comes to the multiplayer modes. The adversarial mode is fun, granted, but it would have been nice to have alternative options. While you can tinker with the settings beforehand; changing the track, types of cars available, or even adding or changing the available weapons, more flexibility and modes would have been nice.

Overall Toybox Turbos is a decent little racer. It's very cutesy, and lacking in options, but the younger audience will no doubt enjoy it, and for those among us drawn to it via nostalgia, there's enough to keep us playing for a few hours. It's not quite the racer we wanted it to be, but it still has the potential to be genuinely fun, and that, at the end of the day, is most definitely the point.

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07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
+ Some great tracks, good handling, plenty of nostalgia, cracking local multiplayer.
- Not enough variety in terms of game modes, short single-player, boss battles, could have taken more risks with track designs.
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Mike Holmes

"If you've got spare controllers, Toybox Turbos will make for an excellent party game."

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