Review by flat_tyre

Reviewed: 12/05/05

Mario Kart - back from the dead

After the disappointing, but still quite fun Double Dash, I didn’t have my hopes set too high for Mario Kart DS. It looked very much the same as its predecessor, and I thought that gameplay would carry on in this way. Boy was I wrong. Mario Kart has reverted back to how it used to be, and is as fun as ever.

Graphics - 8/10

The graphics in MKDS are quite good for the DS. They would get a higher score, if it weren’t for a few annoying things. First, most items are 2D. This isn’t a bad thing, but the items don’t have any animation. Shells don’t spin when fired anymore, and it just doesn’t look right. Also, they get pixilated when seen close up. Apart from this, though, there isn’t much wrong about the graphics. The tracks are very detailed, and the characters and karts look much better in-game than they do in screenshots. Old, retro tracks have been done to the DS’s capabilities, and some have even been converted from 2D to 3D. The graphics are good all round, and never look too bad. Graphics score an 8.

Sound - 8/10

The sounds in MKDS are pretty decent. Nothing will blow you away, but nothing will make you turn down the volume in disgust. The voices can get quite annoying, though, but they aren’t too bad. The music is good as usual, but isn’t quite up there with the older Mario Karts. Some of it is very good, and very memorable. The sound section scores 8.

Gameplay - 9/10

This would score a perfect 10, again, if it weren’t for a few problems. As many of you know, you can have immense fun playing Mario Kart. Having friends over for a multiplayer is a blast, and the single player is great, too. MKDS retains this quality, and you will get soaked up in the gameplay. But, onto the problems. The computer controlled characters blatantly cheat, and sometimes it is so obvious, you will be tearing your hair out in frustration. Such an example is when you hit someone with an item, but it doesn’t do anything, and when they go much faster to catch up or overtake, when you have the faster kart, and are at top speed. Another problem is that when you are in the lead, you are pummeled with items much more than before. You’d be lucky to complete a race in the lead without being hit by a blue shell twice.

MKDS brings many new features to the Mario Kart series. First of all, it is the first game with online play that Nintendo has created, and it’s free! And, the tracks are split into two categories - Nitro Grand Prix and Retro Grand Prix. Nitro is 16 new tracks, and retro is 16 old classics, remade for the DS.

MKDS feels much more retro than its Gamecube counterpart. Most of it is done to a style more associated with the older Mario games, particularly Super Mario Bros 3 on the NES. This gives the game a nice feel, and a break from the style in recent Mario games. The gameplay earns a score of 9.

Difficulty - 6/10

Difficulty has been a problem with Mario Kart, throughout the series. It ranges from the extremely easy in 50cc, to the harder, but still fairly easy 150cc. But, to unlock everything, you will need a lot more skill. With enough practice, it should be easy enough, but be warned - it will still challenge most people. Difficulty scores 6 out of 10.

Replay value - 10/10

This is where Mario Kart really shines. The brilliant gameplay combined with the amazing replay value combine to make one of the best combinations ever. You might unlock everything within a few days, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to do. You can challenge yourself in time trials, compete with other players via the online play and multiplayer, have fun in the grand prix and vs. mode, earn the highest grades, just mess around… the list is endless. I’d be surprised if you never played this game for more than a couple of days. Granted, you may have times when you don’t play it for a while, but it is certain that you will come back to it again. I still play the Super Mario Kart to this day, more than 12 years from its release, and I wouldn’t be surprised if MKDS will be the same. The replay value scores a perfect 10.

Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Difficulty - 6/10
Replay value - 10/10

Positive points:
+ Great gameplay combines with superb replay value
+ Fantastic multiplayer
+ 32 tracks - 16 new, 16 old classics
+ Good graphics and sound
Negative points:
- The computer cheats too much
- A little too easy

For Mario Kart fans, this is an essential purchase. Those that have never played a Mario Kart before (shame on you!), give it a go - you will be pleasantly surprised, and I’m sure you’ll get addicted.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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