Two little games have been making a big splash with the VR community as of late, with their classic Micro Machines gameplay and solid Rift DK2 integration. Leading this pack of ‘tiny racers’, BlazeRush and Toybox Turbos showcase a masterful use of third-person point of view in a space once populated almost exclusively by first-person experiences, raising the question: are tiny racers here to stay?
One of the most exciting parts of covering the uncharted waters of emerging technology like VR are the little moments in the medium’s evolution, the times when you see new life breathed into the classic games and genres that were once considered too quaint or too reserved for the era of ‘next gen’ gaming.
Join us as we take a look at two such titles, BlazeRush and Toybox Turbos, both fine examples of an emerging VR genre inspired by the top-down Micro Machines franchise, the last of which was seen in 2006 on the PlayStation 2.
There’s a story in here somewhere that’s supposed to explain why you’ve been pitted against 4 other futuristic machine gun-firing, rocket-boosting racers, and why you have to risk your life on a lava belching proto-planet or around Aztec ruins, but a few clicks away from the naturally integrated start menu has you forgetting any contrivance of the sort. There’s something more important to steal your attention: the fluid and natural way Targem Games, the makers of popular freemium game Star Conflict, positions you above their unique brand of small-scale destruction; when viewed from either Oculus Rift DK1 or DK2, it makes the tiny cars below seem about the size of… well… Micro Machines.
At first I was hesitant about letting a game whip my point of view around such a small track, with the possibility of constant turns potentially making for an unpleasant gaming experience, but after playing BlazeRush for over an hour I was totally sold on its ability to focus you in on the action below. The sweeping pan of the game’s camera was comfortable, and added a unique sense of presence that I didn’t think was actually possible with a third-person point of view—until now. Although some less than optimal rotoscoped explosions punctuated moments of disbelief—giving BlazeRush a slightly cartoony feel where it would be better served with something more realistic—it certainly doesn’t stop you from holding your breath as the boss, a combine harvester death machine, billows out black smoke in your face and crushes any stragglers on the track.
Although not an officially licensed iteration of the Micro Machines video game series, Toybox Turbos is more of a spiritual successor. If you’re feeling some nostalgia, there’s good reason: Codemasters reprises their role as the developer, having also created Micro Machines V4 (2006).
Toybox Turbos revives the days of childhood fantasy when the power of imagination and a beaten-up toy car could race around anything and everything, including cluttered kitchens, dining room tables, and grade school classrooms. The game’s track is littered with everyday items, serving as boundaries and obstacles, like milk puddles for water hazards or odd bits of cereal for guide rails.
Gameplay is a breeze, with simple-to-master controls and a vast array of weapons to use against your fellow racers, easily exploding all four of their wheels and resetting their position in the game. The ability to purchase new vehicles with money collected on the track makes Toybox Turbos a family-friendly title that won’t have the younger ones begging for the credit card so they can pay to win.
The game also integrates very well with the DK1/DK2, and seems to pan out slightly more in terms of the amount of action captured on the floating camera, although this may be due to the need to peer over high obstacles like jutting plates and toaster ovens, leaving the game a little more distant feeling than BlazeRush.
If you’re in the market for a reasonably priced multi-player racing game (that doesn’t take itself too seriously), both games are currently on sale for $7.49 as part of Steam’s Holiday Sale which goes until January 2nd.