It has been a while since I’ve had a good console Micro Machines clone. Toy cars running around your home, local multiplayer battles and pure arcade thrills. My hopes were raised with Tinker Racers after seeing the initial trailer but unfortunately, due to its own scope and budget price point, the fun is over before it begins.
The problem straight out of the bag is that Tinker Racers repurposes its same ideas over and over to make a very little stretch a long way. Here’s an example. Tinker Racers gives you 24 tracks in three environments – bedroom, kitchen and office. One bedroom track is a square oval. The next track is the same layout but now with a kink in it. The next layout is the same area again but with a chicane. The kitchen suffers the same problem. Around the same sink we go, just that instead of turning left at one corner, we might have a longer straight to a tighter hairpin around some food. Essentially it is not 24 tracks. It is 8 variants of 3 tracks. That might sound petty but the changes are often just a single corner. It feels a bit cheap.
Tinker Racers is cheap though and so that’s the problem. Clearly built to provide a budget thrill, you can’t choose a car, its track dependant. Whilst some do handle differently, it is very slight. Every track can be raced in time trial and this exposes the fact that you can skip large chunks of the track layout, cut corners dramatically and just make sure you hit a few waypoints on your way to finishing a lap. It is a shame. The other problem is graphically, the engine cannot keep up with what is going on. Up to 8 cars are on screen at once and if a bouncing beach ball enters the screen, the game suffers slow down. It also seems to stutter a frame or two every few seconds. Strangely – I got used to it – but clearly, something is wrong.
Is it all bad? Not at all. Tinker Racers does provide 4 player local racing both in single screen survival races or split-screen 5 lap races. Survival races are interesting because it is like the old Micro Machines formula but with a health stat. If you fall off the edge of the screen, you are out for the round but if you hit any of the many obstacles on screen, you incur damage. Whilst the damage varies hugely for little reason other than perhaps your speed, it adds an extra element of jeopardy. Lose all your health and you fail the mission. In local multiplayer, evenly matched racers will be pushing each other into blocks, vegetables and staplers to try and win. interestingly, falling off the track doesn’t eliminate you and players respawn quickly. This means you might be able to cling on at the back of the screen, just a bit damaged. It must also be said that the way how environmental objects can be pushed and moved about into and around the track is good fun too. Whilst the cars don’t feel fantastic, the handling is at least predictable and arcade enough to just pick up and play. There is zero nuance though although for the casual racer that might actually be a positive.
Sadly though, the lack of budget and scope really stops Tinker Racers from being anything more than a quick 20-minute experience that doesn’t leave much of an impression. So many other racers do this style of game better, although this gen hasn’t seen the best of them. I wanted to like Tinker Racers. I was left underwhelmed and disappointed.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
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