Mario Kart DS arrived yesterday and I spent a fair portion of the evening playing it - this in itself bodes well since it’s rare these days that I’ll play a game for a long time. First impressions are very good - most of the tracks ‘feel’ very appropriate for what I would consider to be a good MK game - tight courses with lots going on, and plenty of opportunity for gaining advantage through power sliding and other little tricks.
Of the tracks that I’ve played so far, the best are the new tracks or the tracks from the GBA version, closely followed by most of the N64 tracks. Unsurprisingly the least enjoyable for me are many of the Double Dash tracks, and those N64 tracks which are similar to that style. In my opinion, many of the Double Dash tracks (and one N64 track I’ve played so far) suffer from being far too open, with long straights and very wide sections of track that offer little opportunity for the kind of frenetic, close-in karting that really epitomises Mario Kart for me - the primary reason DD didn’t light my fire. Luckily the new tracks seem to be far more ‘classic’ in race design (whilst being of fully 3D construction) and are an awful lot more fun, and together with the almost exclusively excellent tracks from the other games makes you forget about the odd blip.
Control is, as always, very intuitive and the new slipstreaming feature becomes second nature very quickly, adding a new dimension and once again encouraging close racing.
Wireless setup was simple in the extreme (once I’d added the DS to my list of approved MAC addresses, a security feature that probably not many people use), and racing over the Internet was flawless. I couldn’t even tell these people were across the globe, the only short delay was in collecting enough players to begin, during play there was zero observable lag.
Overall, I like this game a lot. The only problem is that after playing for a while I tend to develop a cramp in my hands due to the need to be able to simultaneously hold accelerate (A), powerdrift (R-shoulder) and fire weapons (L-shoulder) as well as the D-pad, leading to an enforced break every couple of games to stretch my fingers out of the claw-like shape they’ve ended up in. 😕