Rated 4 out of
Decent arcade-style racer that doesn't quite keep up with its namesake.
You can approach TrackMania DS two ways. As a conversion of the PC franchise it sort of misses a major part of the experience: online support. But as a DS-centric arcade racer it's one of the better titles on the system with a ton of gameplay options and an incredibly beefy track creator. Overall it's a really good effort but it's hard to ignore the online omission, especially since the last two racing games the developer worked on featured the option prominently. Trackmania DS has been available in European and Australian territories for several months now – after losing its original publisher the game found a home at Atlus who's handling the North American distribution. Nothing's been updated during that time, what's been available overseas since 2008 is what we're getting in the US in 2009. The game has been developed by Firebrand Games, a team that's worked on two quality DS racers in the past: Race Driver: Create and Race and GRID. Both games weighed more on the "simulation" side of racing (or as close as you're going to get on the DS hardware), but for TrackMania DS the team gets to produce a game that throws reality out the window: the game's all about loops, corkscrews, jumps, and tracks that would send a normal car to its grave right quick if they existed for real. It's also more about time trials than grinding for position. In fact, the other cars in the game are ghosts with no collision, even during multiplayer races. The team's technical prowess comes into play right away in TrackMania DS: the game's visual engine runs at an incredibly peppy 60 frames per second most of the time, only dropping to 30 during some of the more complex track structures. TrackMania DS also employs an updated version of the team's track creator, this time offering an interface that makes it possible to test tracks on the fly. Players build their circuits in the 3D engine, so it's easy to simply jump in and out of the car to see how well the creation drives without the awkwardness of loadtimes. The DS game features a multitude of game styles that really add to the variety. You've got normal races that pit players against the clock and their choice of ghost racers in three distinctly different style of vehicles. You've also got a clever "platform" mode where you simply have to survive some absolutely devious track creations without falling off the edge. And there's "Puzzle," a unique idea that challenges players to finish the track using the construction mode. No racing game's complete without multiplayer and TrackMania DS has a full-featured single and multicartridge mode for competitive racing, and you'll be able to trade your track creations with other TrackMania DS owners…but only if they're standing right next to you. And that's really one of the biggest faults with TrackMania DS: its lack of any online component. The TrackMania series on the PC is known for its internet sharing and competition, and the Nintendo DS features none of it. Considering the developer involved in the DS conversion you'd think this would be a priority: both Race Driver and GRID featured Nintendo Wi-Fi support and the team's third game doesn't even acknowledge the DS system's online capabilities. But that's not the only issue we have with TrackMania. As fun as the racing is, there are technical flaws that find their way into the racing and hinder the gameplay. For example, if you take a hill too fast, your car will many times slam through the track piece temporarily and either slow down or take an unfortunate bounce that can – and frequently will – affect your times on the track. It's a frustrating element that shouldn't even come into play: sure, we can understand a drop in speed simply going uphill, but we just can't forgive a dramatic drop in speed simply because your car passed through the track surface when you were accelerating to an incline. Closing Comments Give me the choice between simulation and arcade racing and I'll t
Date published: 2009-05-31