Crisis, team. Crisis. The misuse of "franchise" is starting to bother me. These days, I can't click for more than about two homepages before encountering something like "the Zelda franchise". It's not. When Capcom makes Zelda games for Nintendo, those have been franchised out. When Nintendo releases Twilight Princess, it's not "the latest addition to the popular Zelda franchise". In today's case, Codemasters' Micro Machines just about counts as a franchise, because the developer's been allowed to make games that trade under the name of Hasbro's collectible toys. In most cases though, the word we're looking for is "series", which implies, you know, a set of products or activities.
Interestingly though, "series" doesn't have to imply any kind of sequence, or progress between instalments. Which, in the case of Micro Machines V4, is just as bloody well.
It's been about eight hundred years since I last played Micro Machines. Back then, it was an entertaining little top-down racing game with quirky courses built around flowerpots, spades, sandcastles, feet and kittens. Winning was about maintaining speed by sticking to straight lines and trying not to bounce off the scenery. Others cars smash; Micro Machines just lose their momentum. Or fall off the table. The other thing I remember about Micro Machines is that it had Violet Berlin as a character.
In this contrary world that we inhabit, you get used to contrasting opinions about everything. If the BBC collared Sven Goran Eriksson about his thoughts on the rebirth of Micro Machines V4, he'd probably peer balefully over his glasses, do his best owl impression, surreptitiously emit a pellet and come to the conclusion that "we got the right result" and hoot that it "played well" while skirting wistfully over the issue and managing to avoid giving us any real insight into the matter.
The pundits back in the studio, meanwhile, would be in no mood to pay lip service to Supersonic for the sake of blind nostalgia. It might be eight years since V3 graced the PSone, but Alan Hansen would point out the defensive naivety, and highlight the glaring predictability in Codemasters' tactics and suggest things need freshening up if it is to compete on the world stage. Then we'd get a cheeky wink from Gary Lineker who would lighten the mood with a quip about David Darling's hair and surmise that it was an efficient return to the starting line-up for the veteran franchise.
And then we'd cut to some cheery, beery fans, celebrating their recent multiplayer result and chanting "Genius at play!" They'd be barely able to string a coherent sentence together, but would be full of song and infectious joy. Who cares what the nasty old critics think?
Hot on the heels of the reworking of Sensible Soccer, Micro Machines v4 is the latest classic update from Codemasters - and the Britsoft publisher has today released the first gameplay trailer in celebration of the game's imminent launch.
An unashamed back to basics approach promises to deliver an experience fans of previous instalments will instantly warm to, thanks to the return of a variety of familiar race arenas and over 100 vehicles to collect and trade.
The toy racer has always been a multiplayer favourite in particular, and the promise of network play, particularly on the handheld versions, is a big draw. And one you'll be able to sample for yourselves very soon, as Micro Machines v4 hits PS2, PSP and PC on June 30th - with a DS version to follow.
Codemasters has officially announced that a new Micro Machines game is currently in development for PS2, PSP, PC and Nintendo DS.
Micro Machines v4 is being developed by Supersonic Software, who were responsible for various other MM games as well as the Mashed series.
Expect hundreds of unique vehicles, including sports cars, street racers, stock cars 4x4s, beach buggies, lowriders and muscle cars. They all handle and perform differently, and there are loads of weapons and power-ups to collect - including the car-mounted giant hammer.