Foxkids.com Micro Maniacs Racing
Since the 1980’s Codemasters has built a reputation that their games encapsulate fun and quality. Their founders, David and Richard Darling, started out programming for the Commodore 64. It was their second game, BMX Simulator, that caught my attention with slightly edgy and detailed art. In the game you navigated a track from a top-down perspective, making jumps and taking advantage of straights to increase your speed.
As the decades passed Codemasters ultimately became known as a studio that predominantly made outstanding racing games like the F1, Grid and Colin McCrae/Dirt series.
So when I found out that they made FoxKids.com: Micro Maniacs Racing (FKMMR) for the original Playstation, a game that had remained unopened in my library, I was interested enough to see how they had applied their racing expertise to a franchise I had no knowledge of. Given the name of the game, I assumed that Micro Maniacs was an animated series that had aired on Fox Studios childrens programming network, but from what I can tell, this is actually an original set of characters, and the FoxKids.com was added solely to satisfy some marketing effort to boost sales of the game and/ or brand awareness of FoxKids.com. Outside of North America, the games was released simly as “Micro Maniacs”.
It turns out that FKMMR is an unofficial sequel the Micro Machines racing games and features a similar isometric perspective to the previous game, Micro Machines V3 in which you guide small racers through environments based in real-world locations such as kitchens, laboratories and gardens, played "zoomed in" due to the miniature nature of the racers.
FKMMR however, eschews vehicles for most of the game, embracing the relatively rare “foot racing” convention seen in such masterpieces as the previously reviewed The Land Before Time: Great Valley Racing Adventure. The foot racing nature of the game allows the speed of the characters movement around the micro tracks to be fairly slow, spiced up by the attack moves each of the twelve characters has (think Mario Kart where instead of randomly assigned battle weapons they are fixed by the character your have chosen).
While the concept is interesting, and certainly an economical recycling of the Micro Machines assets without having to pay for the license, the execution of the game is very poor. Saying that you control the characters is an exaggeration as most of the time you feel as though you are balancing a marble on a sheet of cardboard as opposed steering. The tracks have no hard borders (they are merely lines on the ground) which leads to the player flying off the edge of the screen, only to be “saved” and dragged back to the course, albeit it with a heavy time penalty. The three-dimensional character models feel completely disconnected from the 3D rendered, (but non-interactive backgrounds), giving the controls a feeling of floating above the track.
There are levels in which you control vehicles, but these control just as the foot racers, and with short tracks that repeat until you have completed multiple laps, interest wanes quickly.
In most games of this nature a multiplayer mode will provide respite from frustration, but besides a meagre “Versus” mode most of the multiplayer options are not played by multiple players at the same time, adding impatience and boredom to the frustration of the player watching the other player play.
As a retro challenge the game offers no joy, no nostalgia and due to the loose steering and lack of tangible friction, betrays good game play. While likely made with the best of intentions, FKMMR is a game best left on the shelf.