The popular racing series makes its Nintendo DS debut.
TrackMania's garnered a huge following with PC users, thanks to its brutal racing challenges, vast online community and terrific presentation. Now the series hits the portable circuit with TrackMania DS.
Here, racing's the name of the game, but it's handled in short spurts. You're given a certain time to beat each race, and doing so grants you the opportunity to earn a medal, either gold, silver or bronze. Win enough medals and you unlock difficult races. Although you compete with other cars in the game, you're mostly racing against the clock, cutting corners while trying to cross the finish line.
Firebrand Games has done its homework when it comes to the visuals. You have three separate views to choose from (ranging from aerial to right on the hood), and all of them give you a clear view of the road. Some obstacles get in the way, such as walls and hairpin turns, but not nearly enough of them to make you swerve off the road completely. In addition, the game features genius level design, with plenty of curves and jumps. No matter how frantic the on-screen action gets, it always retains a clean, smooth-running appearance. It's just a shame the forgettable rock music fails to compliment the eye candy.
Along with solo racing, TrackMania DS also gives you the option to race against a friend in local multiplayer action. The competitive racing is a lot of fun, as you square off against a buddy for the best time.
That said, the game features no online connectivity, and considering the series is all about online leaderboards and competition, it's a noticeable omission. Perhaps it was too ambitious a task for Atlus to complete in the game's conversion to U.S. shores.
Speaking of ambitious, TrackMania also includes a track editor. Here, you can create your own tracks, with loop-de-loops and other obstacles. There are various options to play around with and TrackMania fans will feel right at home. However, there's no virtual guide to show you the way, so amateur designers may get lost before they even complete their first track. Worse yet, without online connectivity, you can only share your courses (and retrieve others) through local Wi-Fi.
As it stands, TrackMania DS is a suitable and fun racing game. We would like to see more with a sequel, including longer tracks, a friendlier track editor and online options, but for now, it's still worth a few laps.
What's Hot: Lots of road challenges to complete across a number of circuits, terrific gameplay, attractive graphics and a nice array of tracks, local Wi-Fi connectivity.
What's Not: Tedious Puzzle mode and Track Editor, no online leaderboards, forgettable music.