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Every now and then a game comes along that bares no comparison with others in its genre and it is simply superior to its competitors. A game such as this has no equal and is often cloned but never bettered. Mario Kart is such a title. In its various formats be it that of the original Super Nintendo, N64 or Gamecube versions it stands head and shoulders above other driving games in terms of track design, multiplayer fun and good old fashioned playability. However, despite Mario Karts various incarnations being great games in their own right, there has always been a sense that I had yet to see a complete Mario Kart title. Mario Kart DS is the title that manages this with considerable aplomb.
Mario Kart DS is a racing game so as such has no plot. However, thanks to an array of ten familiar characters available for selection from across the length and breadth of the numerous Mario titles it is not difficult to see were racing rivalries take place. Fights between such characters as brothers Mario and Luigi and evil doppelganger Wario are commonplace. Of course, the plot to all racing games is largely superfluous to the gameplay and Mario Kart DS is a prime example of this. Selecting a character and choosing a race be it a traditional Grand Prix, Time Trial or a one on one race/battle is were the real fun begins!
The array of tracks on offer is as impressive as you will find anywhere and what is particularly good about Mario Kart DS is it takes from the old and new to create one hugely impressive title. As well as a choice of characters and two Karts per character (more of which only unlock after completing certain tasks) the tracks are both ingenious and simplistic at the same time. With four cups available of entirely new tracks including desert areas, tropical islands and ice laden hills all of which affect your driving approach there is a lot of gameplay in here. Along with three "Kart CC" options which act as your difficulty levels this is a game that even in single player will last and last. Perhaps, most interestingly for a Mario Kart fan such as myself is the inclusion of the "Retro Cup" which provides even more Karting fun with tracks lifted straight from previous titles going right back to the Super Nintendo version. All in all that's thirty tracks to play on!
As a single player game Mario Kart DS is a highly enjoyable experience. The controls on the DS are responsive and simplistic with only four buttons and the D-pad needed to play. As with all Mario titles the fun is in hurtling round the track at top speed while skidding round corners using the legendary "hop and slide" manoeuvre which takes seconds to learn and months to master and naturally by running over the question mark boxes littered across the track there are a menagerie of weapons and speed ups available including a heat seeking turtle shell, banana skins and a ghost with kleptomania! These are but a few of the items available and once again it is nice to see a mixture of old and new ideas incorporated.
Although the single player is undoubtedly worth the £29.99 purchase price on its own it is as a multiplayer game that Mario Kart DS really rocks my world. The DS is a marvellous little console and its wireless multiplayer option is what the Mario Kart franchise has been waiting for. Play against your mates wireless in either an out and out race or in a pop your opponents balloons battle. Either way with a huge amount of fun is guaranteed as you pip them to the finish line thanks to a speed boost or wayward banana skin. "Shine runners" is a nice little edition too. Another multiplayer mode in which you race around an arena in order to collect the "shines" littered around the landscape. And of course if your opponent happens to get in your way…
Much has been made of the wi-fi option on the DS and again Mario Kart is an ideal game to utilise this. Playing against other DS users across a wireless internet connection for free is my idea of a gamers paradise but unfortunately our home computer is not wireless yet! However, there are several free access points known as "hotspots" in my area and accessing these seems simple enough. I will of course update on how I get on.
I have yet to mention the graphics or sound and that is largely because the gameplay is so damn good if they were awful it would not matter. However, as with all Mario titles the graphics are very colourful and sprites are sharp. Landscapes are all about colour too although there is little in the way of shading to note the backdrops are all suitable rendered be it waterfalls or deserts. Sound is exceptional with an appropriately "revved up" audio on start up and music suitable to each area (spooky noises for Luigi's Mansion being a prime example). Sound effects could be straight out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon and the game is all the better for it with pops, bangs and amusing noises in all the right places.
As you can see there is very little not to love about Mario Kart DS. It has a unique sense of fun unparalleled in other games and it is certainly the best game I have played on any console in many years. If I were to dig deep for any criticism it would be that the game makes little use of the DS's dual screen capability with the top screen for racing and the bottom a rudimentary map but that is me really digging to China for criticism.
Mario Kart DS is the perfect racing game. Be it in Single or multiplayer the lifespan is truly infinite. The addictiveness of the gameplay combined with a perfect learning curve and responsive controls make this a must have for any gamer and is one for all ages from three to eight three.
Eh? It does make use of both screens the whole time. Terffically helpful too. It could have used the lower touch screen more, as apart from the emblem maker (which is finicky at best) there's not much use for the stylus.
stevielad123 23.11.2006 15:22
Great review. Christmas Day is going to be great!