Name: TrackMania DS
Platform: Nintendo DS
The DS doesn’t have too many good racing games. Actually, it really only has one or two. There’s Mario Kart, which puts a focus on shooting shells, and Indianapolis 500 Legends, which put a focus on, well, the Indy 500. Beyond that it’s really slim pickings, so the field is ripe for a new game in the genre. Screeching in at breakneck speeds is TrackMania DS a port of the PC racer with a focus on crazy speed, loops, and everything that made Rush 2049 playable. Does the DS port hold up, or is the rest of the review only worth reading for rubbernecks?
TrackMania DS has several modes packed into the small DS cartridge. Racing against foes in singleplayer is deceptive, and the three opposing vehicles are actually markers, or ghost riders, showing the necessary times to beat to be rewarded with medals. Each medal gives a different amount of points, which can be spent to unlock more tracks, cars, or editing blocks. Earn enough medals and unlock the next batch of tracks, furthering perpetuating the cycle. This might be more difficult or annoying if, as stated earlier, it wasn’t so easy to restart, and with many of the tracks only taking around one minute the method becomes doing a few runs to memorize a path and trying to beat the first place car to the end.
Again, it’s simple, but it works, and is effective in the handheld setting. Racing through the Stadium, Desert, and Rally races all feel and look different, giving unique spins on the TrackMania formula. Other modes turn the racer into more of a puzzle game, which also helps its portability. Luckily, it doesn’t have some of the other scars of a portable game, and sports some of the best graphics on the system. The game’s framerate is remarkable; barely ever dipping despite the system’s lower capabilities, and the presentation is light, but fairly complete.
The developers ignored the system’s touchscreen capabilities for the most part, only using them for level creation. Regularly, steering is controlled quite adequately with the D-Pad. As opposed to using the console’s capabilities for the sake of using them, they’re implemented according to necessity, and though it’s touch and go with level creation (pun absolutely intended), it is still better than forcing a digital wheel onto the bottom screen. All in all, it’s an extremely tight package, and the developers took care not to let little issues get in the way of the overall presentation.
Each of the different settings can also be created in the Editor, and there should be no problems finding ideas to quickly fill up the sixty file spots. Level editing can be a tad bit touchy, especially with the less-than perfect controls and lack of a rotate screen button. Even so, there are very few limitations on what can be created. Actually, the only real issue with TrackMania DS’s level creation is that it isn’t possible to share them online. Sending to friends locally is easy enough, but such a robust and fantastic level creation system should have come with the ability to share maps worldwide.
TrackMania DS is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best racing games on the DS. There aren’t too many games that pose any real threat to that title this side of Mario Kart, but the point stands. When two of the four face buttons on the Nintendo DS are mapped to resetting at the starting line, it doesn’t take long to realize that this isn’t a standard racing game. It’s much faster, in a way, and there’s even less emphasis on realism than there is in other stunt-racing games. A splash of single-cart multiplayer, a sprinkle of addictive gameplay, and a hint of wonderful presentation make TrackMania DS a must own for DS racing fans.