Setup & Timing
Mario Kart DS's setup is very strong. The main connection process and download take little over 40 seconds with a mini-dowload (10 seconds or
less) before each game starts to pull up specific info. The host has more options than the guests (which makes sense). For the guests, everything
runs on auto-pilot until the game begins, keeping their focus on the game itself. To keep things simple, all guests always get Shy Guy. To make
things a little more special for the guests, Shy Guy is EXCLUSIVE to the Single-Card Download guests.
Menus & Navigation
All menu fields are large enough to tap and not hit the wrong option. All menu locations make sense. Go into Multiplayer and create the
Simple connection (which, by the way, is described right on the upper screen), then pick which game and which options you want once you're in. Why is
this good? This is good because, if you want to go from a Vs race to a Balloon Battle to a game of Shine Runners, you can do so without disconnecting!
It really doesn't get much more well put together than this.
Ease Of Use / Play Control
All of the basic control functions are simple and appropriate. Nintendo didn't try to force touch screen controls on a game that, to put it
simply, didn't need them. Everything in the game plays exactly as it does in the single player experience. The controls are intuitive and do exactly
what you expect them to, sometimes even giving you options (like the choice of using the "X" button or "L" button for item control).
You may (or may not) be wondering why, if it's set up so well, was there points taken off in this category? If you're not wondering, feel free
to skip to the next paragraph but, if you are wondering, it's because of a design choice. There's an ability in Mario Kart DS called snaking (for
details on snaking, check out the Mario Kart DS Instructions). Snaking, if
done right, allows for players to get a near-constant speed boost, and it is not easy to pull off. Why does this take down the score? When a person
who knows how to snake (and is good at it) plays against a person that doesn't know how to snake, the person that doesn't know how to snake has no
chance to win (assuming all else to be equal). It's a mechanic that is very unbalanced and there's not really a way to counter it. A lot of people
(including several I know) won't play Mario Kart DS using Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection any more because they don't stand a chance and consider the
mechanic "broken" (unbalanced beyond repair). I realize that Nintendo chose to allow this in the game, and I am not an advocate of removing a feature
that Nintendo wanted in the game. It would be nice, however, to have the option to allow or disallow snaking (turn it on or off). There are two ways
this can be done: allow/disallow of powersliding or, preferably, allow/disallow of snaking by requiring a 3-5 second gap between powerslides. To
summarize, the points were removed because of a control function that can eliminate inexperienced players from even contending and, thereby, reducing
the fun those players may experience in playing Mario Kart DS. (Yeah, I know it was long winded.)
Category Score: 12.5 / 15
Mario Kart DS's look is terrific, with accurate graphical representations of the Retro Grand Prix tracks, as well as the Pipe Plaza battle
arena. 3D elements move well and everything acts as it would be expected to. The animations are terrific (unlock R.O.B., and cause him to spin out by
pressing and holding the "A" button before the "2" appears in the countdown!), both in and out of the races. The sound effects are not only
appropriate, they add to the game playing experience. The sound effects let you know when a shell is coming or if something is blowing up
nearby. The music is either peppy, ominous, or whimsical, depending on the racetrack/board, and works well with the sound effects. The features are
also well done, allowing 1/4 of the tracks in the game, 1/2 of the multiplayer battle boards, and an exclusive racer to be used with the Single-Card
Download feature, not to mention several rule choices and victory conditions.
I had finally saved up enough money to buy a Nintendo DS (many bills) when holiday time 2005 came around. Fortunately for me, I was able to
track down one of the red Nintendo DS systems bundled with Mario Kart DS, making it my first game. I didn't keep track of the number of hours I spent
playing, unlocking, replaying, improving, etc. my Mario Kart DS data, but it was a lot. I've been a fan of the Mario Kart series since I bought Mario
Kart 64, and have since picked up Mario Kart: Double Dash! and Mario Kart Super Circuit, in addition to Mario Kart DS (I'm missing Super Mario Kart,
but that's it). The series is fun and keeps almost everyone amused, regardless of how short their attention span. I'm very much looking forward to
Mario Kart Wii (or whatever it will be called) and I with they'd add tracks through online micro-transactions (just a personal hope).
Mario Kart DS was the first game in the Mario Kart line to include online play (via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection). Mario Kart DS included
double the number of tracks of any previous game in the Mario Kart line, half of which are favorite tracks from previous Mario Kart games. The game
looks great. The game sounds great. The game plays great. The only criticism is the decision to allow for snaking (see above). I still pull this
game out and try to beat my old times. So far, no two Mario Kart games have appeared on the same system (Mario Kart Super Circuit and Mario Kart DS
don't count), but I'm hoping that will change with the Nintendo DS. Mario Kart DS set the standard for all racing games on the DS. The only way to
beat it? Follow it up with another Mario Kart game on the Nintendo DS!
Add a one-race vs-computer demo
Include an option to allow/disallow snaking
Create a bumper car battle royal (deathmatch)
Overall Single-Card Download Rating: 95 / 100 (a.k.a. 47.5/50)
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