The game has a sense of familiarity when you first switch it on but Nintendo has completely built this one from the ground up. They could have ported N64's Mario Kart, but to their credit they decided not to do that and have created a fantastic game. As you would expect there is a only few options to choose from including Single and Multiplayer with the main crux of the game being the tournament modes.
As with other Mario Kart titles the game is a racing title and the aim is obviously to finish first. However there has been a few changes to the game to keep it fresh. Most of the game remains the same. There are eight tournaments to choose from with only two unlocked initially. As you progress through you will discover the special cup and after completing that the retro cups are unlocked which are actually the tracks from the very first Mario Kart game. This is an absolute masterstroke by Nintendo as we can pretty much assume those who will rush out to buy this game, have been fans for quite some time.
The other familiar aspect is the three speed levels to choose from; 50, 100 and 150cc. Obviously, the more powerful the kart, the harder it is to control and therefore the harder the game is to play. Honestly however, 50cc really is for those who may have never played this game before and even then most will find it just not enough of a challenge to be even worth it. 100 and 150cc is where the gaming action is.
Although most of the game will feel familiar, there has been a few changes. First being one of the new powerups which turns you into a bullet traveling at high speed taking out competitors. When we discovered this powerup we weren't expecting it but it works so well in the game that it should be kept for future games. Other changes are a bit less obvious other than the new tracks and karts. This is a game where many of the tracks have been built from scratch as opposed to inspired by previous games and the tracks are enjoyable to play.
You will find a bevy of characters to choose from but one of the coolest new aspects is the multiple karts. You can drive a kart from the latest game or choose to use a more old fashioned kart from the previous games. Each character has their own kart and statistics. Some are slow and easy to control while others are fast and harder to steer well. Choosing the right character can affect whether you win or lose.
Visually the game was a surprise. It is much better then we were expecting and when the DS produces graphics like this paired with this gameplay it can be easy to forget about the PSP. The game runs very smooth and seems to use a voxel style graphics engine for the 3D effect. Either way it looks brilliant with high levels of detail and most of all it compliments the racing and gameplay very well. The sound effects are typical with music and stupid character voices the order of the day.
Mario Kart DS is a must have game for the Nintendo DS and is possibly even good enough to make you go and buy a DS unit for it. Nintendo have really managed to put together an extremely fun game and with the online options, the Nintendo DS really does house the best Mario Kart game ever.
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