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Joystiq presents

Gaming to Go: Mario Kart DS (page 2)

I can scarce imagine any DS Fanboys not knowing how Mario Kart works, so I won't focus too much on the finer details of the gameplay. The basic formula for Nintendo's kart racers has gone largely unchanged in its many iterations, and the DS version is no exception. Online multiplayer was a significant step, and the use of the second screen introduced an interesting element of strategy to the races, but anyone who has spent time with the title can agree that Mario Kart DS's greatest achievement is how it takes a classic formula and tweaks it to near perfection.

What's not to enjoy? A colorful cast of Nintendo favorites, a fantastic mix of old and new tracks, and the delightfully chaotic racing that comes when you combine go karts and spiky blue shells. Races are short and exciting whether you're playing with friends or by yourself, as grand prix mode's three different cc classes cater to all skill levels. There's also time trial mode, which pits you against no competitor save yourself as you race to beat your best time and complete three laps in as few minutes as possible.

For gaming on the go, you can't really ask for much more. It's hard to complain when a title gives you solid gameplay and variable challenge in quick bursts as often as Mario Kart does, yet there are a few negative things prevalent in the DS title worth mentioning.

For all of its portable goodness, the DS version does have one design quirk that prevents it from being the ultimate on-the-go racer: the inability to save your progress in the game's Grand Prix mode and return to it at a later point. When wi-fi isn't available, you'll be spending quite a bit of time running through the many different race cups, so it's a shame that you'll have to stick with a grand prix until the last race lest you exit out and have to completely start over.

For console versions, it's an understandable choice, as a pause screen and the luxury of time make working through a cup an excellent leisure activity. Portable racing, however, is a slightly different animal. Sure, you can close the DS's lid and resume your racing at a later point, but being unable to play any of Mario Kart DS's many other modes without quitting the grand prix can be more than a little frustrating. Knowing that you'll have to complete the entire grand prix for it to count could make it a less appealing choice for a gamer on the go, especially if you're trying to complete the cups to unlock the game's extra characters and karts.

Other dubious elements include the snaking technique, which quickly grew to dominate the multiplayer arena, effectively killing some players' interest in competing. The infamous rubber band AI common to the Mario Kart series is also present, though still manageable by skilled players.

These still seem like niggling complaints, however, when one looks at the big picture of Mario Kart DS. Excluding the few things mentioned above, it captures the spirit of kart racing like no other, and shines even brighter by giving us the package in portable form.

Gaming to Go!

This Month's New Games

Name Date
Bleach: Dark Souls
Oct 6
Legend of Kage 2
Oct 6
Crash: Mind Over Mutant
Oct 6
Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals
Oct 6
My Japanese Coach
Oct 14
Korg DS-10
Oct 14
Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2 Oct 14
FIFA Soccer 09 Oct 14
Populous Oct 14
Rock Revolution
Oct 14
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
Oct 21
Oct 21
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows Oct 21
Away: Shuffle Dungeon
Oct 21
Oct 21
Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon
Oct 21
What's Cooking? With Jamie Oliver Oct 21
MySims Kingdom
Oct 28
Ninjatown Oct 28

Get homebrew on your DS!

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