We get the impression Codemasters’ Micro Maniacs sold poorly upon release. Not only did it never receive a sequel, but it’s rarely mentioned in conversations about top-down racers either. The few who played it though will no doubt testify that it was a decent alternative to Micro Machines.
Almost twenty years later, it’s about to get a spiritual successor – Must Dash Amigos is also an on-foot top-down racer with an assortment of kart-racer style weapons. Just two buttons are used during play – one to discard an item and, well, you can probably guess the other.
The colourful caper is full of Mexican inspiration, almost able to give Guacamelee a run for its money. A portly Lucha wrestler in an ill-fitting costume is the cover star, while weapons include burritos (rockets), mega burritos (homing missiles), salsa (oil slicks), avocado smashing hammers, screen distorting tequila, and a raging bull that propels racers ahead.
Tracks feature random pinata stampedes too, which can be turned off or made less frequent.
Race mode uses the standard Micro Machines set-up – if a player falls behind and vanishes off the screen, they’re a goner. Tracks – set around farms, jungles, and dockside towns – are generally short, ranging between 30-60 seconds long, but even so, a bull stampede will occur to prevent things dragging.
Must Dash Amigos unquestionably favours party play, supporting four players and also featuring tournament and battle modes. However, there’s also something for the solo gamer. Time trials involve breaking target scores over three attempts, while the challenge mode has a trio of quick-burst missions.
Double Trouble entails controlling two characters at once, using one analogue stick each. The Danger Dodging stages add a sense of urgency, meanwhile, forcing you to run away from a rampaging bull – collecting every single speed boost and hugging corners is crucial. Then there’s Master Catcher, which puts you hot on the heels of a mystical pinata.
In terms of presentation, it’s as bright and colourful as the screenshots suggest, and developers miniBeast definitely haven’t shied away from clashing colour schemes. Beating challenges bags ‘moustache tokens’, used to unlock new outfits, and there’s also a screen full of statistics to help keep track of the number of races won, as well as other less-useful stats.
Launching at a time when kart racers are enjoying a resurgence may sound like a faux pas, but due to its top-down nature Must Dash Amigos offers a different experience to most, primed for local party play. With its two-button control scheme, it’s also a little simpler than the rest of the pack. It’s within that simplicity lies elegance – it’s clear the developers have aimed to create something simple yet instantly gratifying; something anybody can jump in and play no matter how much tequila is under their belt.