25th Nov2014

‘Toybox Turbos’ Review (Xbox 360)

by Phil Wheat


Remember the heyday of Micro Machines? Those tiny little diecast cars that kids, at least of my generation, went crazy for… Well if you’re old enough to remember the toys, then you’re surely old enough to remember the video games! Spanning multiple consoles, including (but not limited to) the Sega Megadrive, Commodore Amiga and the Nintendo NES – the version of the game I loved the most – Micro Machines saw players race, fight and generally cause havoc across a variety of household settings in a top-down racing game that mixed odd, unfamiliar landscapes (billard table anyone?), with ridiculously frenetic gameplay. I for one LOVED it!

Over the years there have been many new iterations of that original game, including the final game in the franchise, a PSOne/PSP version, Micro Machines V4, which was released back in 2006. There have also been a number of “knock-offs” (or homages if you prefer) that have made their way to Apple’s App Store, including the VS. Racing franchise and Table Top Racing. None of which captured the same magic I felt when I played first iteration on the NES back in the early 90s.

However Codemasters, creators of the original Micro Machines video game, have seemingly decided to return to the top-down racing formula that made that game such a hit, for their latest release: Toybox Turbos – a brand-new three-dimensional take on the classic video game format available now via Steam, PSN and XBLA… Well I say three-dimensional, but Codemasters, purveyors of the top-down racer, have seen fit to include an awesome “retro” top-down camera option as well, to take you back to the heady days of 90s video gaming.

The main gameplay in Toybox Turbos consists of a series of cups to win in the game’s single-player mode – defeating bosses at the end of each “world” to both win the vehicle you’re battling and boost that star rating; plus there’s both online racing and single-screen local multiplayer gaming for up to four-players. Of course no arcade-style racing game today can not feature power-ups (thanks Mario Kart), and Toybox Turbos features a plethora of power-ups, everything from machine guns to bombs, and even a giant bonnet-mounted hammer (my personal favourite)

Being a racing game, there are many, many vehicles to take charge of in Toybox Turbos, from the London Cab you start out with to hovercrafts, 4×4’s, tractors, golf carts, Moon buggies – all of which can be purchased with the coins you collect during the races or are won in boss battles – and all of which have different handling and responsiveness and can help or hinder a particular race or environment. As with all racing games, your vehicle can be customised with its very own paint job, and you can make some of these vehicles look as garish and crazy as you want, perfectly matching the craziness of some of the games more “interesting” levels.

Speaking of which, it seems Toybox Turbos has taken a leaf out of the Micro Machines playbook when it comes to level design. Busses leap off slices of cake and London taxis leap over cereal boxes as you play through 18 nostalgic childhood locations, including a science lab, breakfast table, school tables and, not forgetting, a pool table! It’s the kind of level design that made *THOSE* games so much fun – thankfully Codemasters have managed to totally capture what made those levels so great, only this time in three dimensions.

Toybox Turbos is at once a throwback to another era and a fantastic revival for a genre of video gaming that has long-since been left behind in this day and age of graphically perfect, physics accurate, racing games. This is the type of game that is made to be enjoyed, to be picked up and played on a whim, to laugh at, get frustrated with (yes, there are some dodgy physics here – damn you mushrooms!) but most of all to be appreciated.

It’s a shame Codemasters couldn’t use the Micro Machines name for this game because for all intents and purposes that what this game is; and fans of that franchise will find plenty to love about Toybox Turbos. I know I did.

Toybox Turbos is available now to buy and download via Steam (PC), Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.


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