While I'm not entirely sure whether I had physical Micro Machines when I was a kid (I must have had some), I definitely had one of the games, but not the original Micro Machines, hailing from the dawn of the 1990s on the NES, and spreading far and wide in the years following.
Whatever version I had (probably V3 on the PlayStation), I played the hell out of it. There was never a moment where throwing tiny little cars around tracks made of crumbs on the kitchen table - or across perilous metal ruler bridges between the workbenches, or bouncing over the sand dunes of the sand pit - was a dull choice: of course you wanted to do all of that because that's exactly what you'd do with the real toys.
So it comes as no surprise that I'm looking forward to seeing the roots of this series, back on the NES.
Sadly, I'm not having much luck with the NES version, but the Sega Mega Drive port is my saviour, showing me exactly how bad I've gotten at racing Micro Machines around makeshift tracks.
Oh, goodness, is it an exercise in patience or what? The speed these things go can feel absurd, to the point where in the early stages I was peppering the accelerator, hoping it wouldn't be pressed for long enough so that the game registers my input as 'speed into the next obstacle, pronto'.
I wasn't too interested in the drivers available for you to play as and against in the Challenge mode, I just wanted to race, like I did around circuit after circuit in my youth.
When you are finally racing, however, you can't help but to lose focus and get distracted by those circuits. They are full of things you'll find on the kitchen table, or at a workbench, or in the bath, and half of the time you'll be saying to yourself 'Oh course that'd be on the circuit, why did I think otherwise?'
Driving into the contents of a pencil case won't do you any favours, but it won't necessarily cripple your chances of winning the race, either. The literal tracks you see are both clear markers and fuzzy guidelines. If your sloppy driving is pointing you off the track then dip off the track for a moment. It's not like you're fighting to stay within the lines so as to not break FIA Sporting Regulation 27.4, you're just having fun.
And what fun you'll have, especially in multiplayer (if not with the original, then with the many sequels that Micro Machines inevitably spawned). Sure, it takes a bit of getting used to, and you'll be better if you know the tracks rough shape before finding out where the obstacles are the hard way, but that's all part of the fun.
It is as satisfying nailing a lap here as it is in any Gran Turismo title, and that speaks to the joy of playing with and controlling these little cars. You can do so much more with a physical toy car in your hand, but sometimes you simply have to differ to people with better imagination when it comes to track design.
Sometimes you just don't have any toy cars at hand.
A controller and a copy of Micro Machines though...
Nintendo wanted the development of Micro Machines halted because Codemasters didn't have a license to develop for the NES. Codemasters also designed the Game Genie, which Nintendo weren't too happy about at the time either...
Micro Machines, developed by Codemasters, first released in 1991.
Version played: Sega Mega Drive, 1993, via emulation.