A sure to be lost gem exclusive for the PSP, M.A.C.H. is a wildly fun arcade flight and racing title that shines with an addictive hook and finely tuned game play. The acronym stands for Modified Air Combat Heroes, a far less engaging name for this surprise success. It takes some time to reach its peak, though given time it’s not hard to find enjoyment in this one.
Style and controls are what M.A.C.H. sells itself on. While the jets look standard, they’re the furthest things from it. They barrel through canyons, under bridges, and over cities with the ability to turn easier than most cars. Kart racer style, power-ups appear on the tracks to shoot down your opponents. Boost can be earned by staying low to the ground and becomes a critical component to any race.
Dog fighting offers the same mechanics, though with a far different feel. Holding on to missiles or rockets for strategic use later is a sure way to lose them. The sky is filled with enemies that will lock on to your plane in no time. The player with the highest destructive output takes the match.
The single player experience splits these two gameplay types evenly throughout an extensive campaign. You’ll face multiple challenges in each circuit, earning points and money on every win. Moving onto the next set requires a top performance in every event.
Cash is turned into improvements prior to each circuit, and also includes customization. While it’s difficult to find extra money to pay for new paint or decals, a die-hard player will sacrifice for the sake of showing off. Additional performance enhancements are invaluable and cover everything from the wings to the engine. This keeps the player pushing for a first place spot for the extra cash.
For a game that extensively features deathmatches, online play is oddly not included. Eight total players can play multi-player via Ad Hoc with game sharing options as well, but this is hardly a substitute for letting the world take shots at your super jet. This would make the visual customization options a stronger feature as well.
Being a PSP exclusive, the titles works flawlessly with the systems’s analog nub. Turning is quick, making those tight corners easy to pass. There’s no need to worry about turning slightly and whether or not the nub picks up on the subtle movement. To ensure easy progression into the brutally difficult later stages, collision is highly forgiving. Unless your nose hits square into an object, you’ll survive with only a minor speed penalty.
With the forgiving mechanics, M.A.C.H. truly separates itself from all other available products. It’s not for those looking for something deep and involving with a winding story. M.A.C.H. is meant for quick fun on the go that does a fine job of grasping the player early and keeping the UMD in the console when addictive upgrades come into play. This is a sleeper hit.
Video game rentals provided for review by NumbThumb.
M.A.C.H. is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Violence.