Mario Kart DS
I’m not going to waste your time with a history lesson in the life and times of the Mario Kart series. You’ve probably read it and been bored to death by the recount as it has shown up in the introductory paragraph of just about ever review of Mario Kart DS thus far. Suffice it to say, the series has one heck of a pedigree and even if there are new nuances added to each iteration of the game that fans either love, or could do without, there’s been consistent fun to be had each time. That being said, Mario Kart DS keeps the good times rolling, doing away with the gunner/driver dynamic of Mario Kart: Double Dash, returning to some more straightforward kart racing found in earlier games in the series. Best of all, this installment marks the first time the series has gone online. The end result is a game that throws a ton of fun tracks at players, plenty of unlockables, and tons of people to compete against, continuing the Mario Kart series’ tradition of high quality.
a race and getting down to business is simple.
Just choose the race division you want to take on, grab a racer,
and start driving. It’s
real simple. What’s nice
about the tracks is that the game offers a mix of new and old.
For single player this may be annoying to fans who have each and
every Mario Kart to date, but don’t forget that this game can go
online. That being the case
it’s essential that favorite courses through the years appear in this
game, not just focus on 100% original content, and it’s nice to see
that Nintendo didn’t overlook this fact.
There’ll obviously be some dissenters that are going to
complain about this or that conspicuously absent course, but the overall
selection is great. What
really stands out about some of the tracks is how alive they feel.
Some of the courses have tons of contraptions on them that
players need to take into account, adding some additional dynamics to
Not only is there a nice selection of tracks to tear around on, but there’s plenty of racers for players to use too. The game starts off with the usual suspects available (Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Toadstool, etc). However, as players make their way through the game they can slowly begin to unlock various other characters, some famous, and others suspiciously filler-esque. It’s fun trying to do your best on the various circuits, trying to unlock all of the hidden characters in the
Sometimes when you unlock someone new you be sitting there
thinking, “Oh…” and likely only race the guy twice before
relegating him to obscurity, but there are some racers in there that are
very much worth trying to unlock.
Adding to the variety is that each character has two different cars to choose from. Between the pair there are some subtle differences, though they do stick to
theme of their drivers to a degree.
So if one uses a driver known for slow acceleration, but a
vicious top speed, both cars will largely adhere
to this setup, but with some subtle differences in handling.
It isn’t a huge difference between the two cars, but they’re
the sort of thing that will mostly be appreciated by the true
aficionados. To everyone
else, this will all seem a little superfluous, though the cars do look
quite a bit different from one another, adding to the style points
As with any Mario Kart game, this instalment has a ton of different power-ups to help players along over the course of the game. Some are classics like the red homing shell, others are newer, like turning into a bullet, or getting a seemingly unlimited amount of turbo. Depending on how well one is doing in a race appears to impact the quality and variety of the power-ups one gets as well. When one is out in front, the power-ups tend to be fairly mundane. There just isn’t much in the way of a wow-factor, which can make these items boring. The further back one is, though, the cooler the goodies tend to be. However, whether you are always winning, or constantly being lapped you’ll learn to hate the blue, flying turtle shell. There’s no escaping this veritable homing missile, and it always seems to come at the most inopportune moment, screwing over players, and crushing souls…though it is kinda fun shooting some other poor bastard in front of you with the thing.
even if you’re getting smoked by blue turtle shells left and right,
chances are you’ll do it with a smile on your face thanks to the
cheerful presentation of the game.
Sticking with the cute, bright colored visuals that the series is
known for, everything has a happy-go-lucky look to it.
The music too, has a peppy, carefree feel to it that will get
one’s foot a-tappin’. Together
these help to make Mario Kart DS the sort of game that helps melt away
one’s worries, even if only for a short time, and that is most
certainly a welcome sight in a time where so many games are about
gritty, angst-riddled anti-heroes.
course, what really makes Mario Kart DS worthwhile is the online play.
It’s a bit of a production getting setup (in a time consuming,
“Is all of this really necessary?” sort of way), but once that is
taken care of things get fun in a hurry. Online mode allows up to four players to compete against one
another, with about twenty tracks to choose from. There are more courses overall in the game, but the ones with
moving parts have been removed from online play likely to ensure a
smoother game experience. It’s
good fun, and playing against other people is a lot more satisfying than
going against the computer if only for the bragging rights of improving
one’s win-loss ratio. The
only downside to racing online is that there appears to be an exploit in
the game which has been named “snaking” where players force
themselves into hard turns even on the straight-aways, and use it to
get some boost which was only intended for coming out of corners.
Some players have found a way to master this, giving them an
unfair advantage. Aggravating.
will be particularly happy about the way that the online component for
Mario Kart DS is setup. Since
it’s simply a matter of connecting, finding people to play with, and
picking a track, there’s no need to worry about any sort of chat
system that could cause junior to inadvertently learn a number of
words that really have no place in a youngster’s vocabulary.
By no means does Mario Kart DS try to go out and reinvent the racing game experience. What it does, and it does this extremely well, is pluck the best elements from previous Mario Kart games, and implements an online mode. Regardless of whether one is playing the game alone, or online with a few other people there is a ton of fun to be had with this game, and it should be in every DS owner’s library.
- Mr. Nash
(December 23, 2005)
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