After eight long years, it seems as if the term "micro-machines" has come full circle. Originally found in typical miniature form on the venerable Nintendo Entertainment System, Codemasters' best-known series finally returns to the house that Mario built with Micro Machines 64 Turbo. While practically a direct port of the PlayStation game (Micro Machines V3), which has been out for more than a year, there are certain enhancements MM 64 Turbo offers that take advantage of the N64's four built-in controller ports. Unfortunately, that's about all it takes advantage of.
Anyone who knows the Micro Machines series will tell you that it's all about tiny little vehicles that zoom around tracks of a decidedly enormous nature. Imagine pushing little Matchbox cars around your living room, and you'll get a good idea of the sort of racing action Micro Machines offers. There are 32 Micro Machines to be found in the game, although not all of them are available at the beginning. Secret vehicles must be unlocked by winning races in the one-player modes. Once you unlock them, you can take these vehicles and use them in races against other players. If you defeat your friends in multiplayer modes (in which up to eight players can compete), you can then capture their prized Micro Machines and add them to your own stable. Be warned, however, since your opponents may do the same with your vehicles. Throughout the course, you will find power-ups that usually lie just outside the track proper. The power-ups are often amusing little enhancements that give you an advantage in the race (that is, a claw that hooks onto the racer in front of you, advancing you one place at his expense; or a big mallet you can use to squash the racer in front of you). Also, certain track elements interfere with your progress - lily pads in the pond levels will cause you to skid; a deck of cards on a table will become an insurmountable barrier, and so on. Your knowledge of the track is integral to your success. Expect to race these tracks over and over until you master them. The cars, trucks, boats, and all the other stuff handle differently too, so understanding that the tank doesn't move nearly as fast as the race car is crucial, as well. The action is at its most furious when you have at least four friends playing. There are a whole bunch of different modes to keep the average gamer occupied for a good while: challenge, keepsies, time trial, knockout, and party play.
While all this multiplayer action sure is swell, it doesn't come without its downside. Unlike in the good ol' days, when technology limited the amount of graphical trickery a game could pull off, Micro Machines 64 Turbo takes full advantage (sort of) of the N64 hardware, often to its detriment. While the backgrounds and environments are all rendered nicely, offering realistic representations of things like dinner tables, pool tables, ponds, and a chemistry lab, the biggest problem is that you can never see enough of it. The view is usually limited to the area immediately around you, instead of giving you a decent idea of what's ahead. This makes planning for the next turn or track obstacle nearly impossible. A higher overhead view would have helped greatly, but, alas, that is not an option. Another problem that makes the most difficult track even harder is the "intelligent floating camera system." The "impossible floating camera system" would have been a better term, for all the good it does here. On one of the early tracks, which has you skimming across a backyard pond, it's difficult enough avoiding all the lily pads and controlling your zippy little boats without the camera swaying and pivoting at the most inconvenient times. Coupled with the fact that the controls remain constant (right turns your vehicle right, left turns left) is the problem that no matter what direction you're facing, the race can soon become a lost cause, even on the easiest levels.
The graphics and the replay value remain fairly high, considering the options on hand. The sound effects are also appropriate for a game of this nature, although the buzzing of a group of boats can be grating at times. Unfortunately, if you already own the PlayStation incarnation, you're probably better off with that version, as the increased multiplayer options are the only recommendation for the N64 version. If you only have an N64, and you are looking to grab a great multiplayer game, then Beetle Adventure Racing is a far better investment. That said, any of you seriously craving Micro Machines action on your Nintendo probably won't be too disappointed. It's not like it's a bad game, it just could have been much better.