Anxious to recreate the magic of Mario Kart, we have another Nintendo franchise player up to bat in a mini styled racing game. Diddy Kong, no relation to Sean “Diddy” Combs offers up his unique blend of racing taken from the Nintendo 64 game of the same name. Here is Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo DS.
In 1997 we had our first visit from Diddy Kong and his racing friends on the now classic, Nintendo 64. Diddy Kong Racing was well recieved even through it was obvious Nintendo was trying to capitalize off of Mario Karts success. Rare tossed young rising Nintendo star Diddy, son of Donkey, into the world of competition. In 2007 we have the Nintendo DS version ten years later and it seems its not a new version rather an updated port. It seems Diddy is still searching for some of the light that shines on Mario.
An interesting tidbit of information is that two characters have been cut from the original while four new characters have been added. They have added a bunch of forgettable characters like Dixie Kong, Tiny Kong, Wizpig and Taj an Elephant Genie for the already established Banjo from Banjo-Kazooie and Conker the Squirrel. It could have something to do with those characters being under contract with Microsoft now, not sure, but an interesting twist with Diddy Kong’s crew.
The adventure mode is the main mode in Diddy Kong Racing. In this one-player game you progress through a story and visit four different worlds. Diddy Kong tries hard to get the player to be interested in the plot line, but for me it was a diversion as I wandered around looking for a race. In the all too popular open world concept you have to manually go to each event which eats up a good amount of time. Rather then being clever or fun, I found searching around for the next event too much of a chore and at times I got bored and turned the game off.
Adding to the complexity of finding an event you have to have a certain amount of balloons to enter each event. Naturally you start out doing one balloon races, working you way up the ladder. The difficulty is average and I had to play some levels over again which is good, nothing worse then the game being too easy. The deal with the balloons is a little tiresome because you’ll most likely be running around the island trying events until you get enough balloons to move on. The problem is that you can easily loose your way because the navigation isn’t straightforward. I don’t mind the initial idea of locking challenges away, but the balloon system isn’t the best visualization for this concept. Again, I wish it was easier to navigate and get into the action.
I found the controls to be very awkward in Diddy Kong Racing when it came to controlling the plane and magic carpet. On the other side the hovercraft and go-cart work like a dream. The controls also have a conflict when you start a race. The beginning of a race will give you a chance to boost your starting speed by quickly rubbing the touch screen. The problem is, as soon as the race starts you have to drop your stylus and head for the buttons. There isn’t enough time to properly handle both touch screen and buttons unless you use your finger as the stylus. I have no clue how this passed the DS quality team.
For another disapointment we have Rare's weak attempt at rendering a full 3D world. Unfortunately its doesn’t work out as expected and seems blocky and dull. The textures have a low resolution to them which blends in together making some navigation tricky. This might be a throwback to n64 version, keeping it traditional, but more more time could have been spent to update this games look and try and smooth out some of the rough patches.
For some sun in a sky of clouds, you can play Diddy Kong Racing online through the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection. If you manage to spend enough time with Diddy Kong you try to venture online and you most likely will find a more exciting experience. Rather then playing against the computer, human opponents are more fun, and especially because all the running around has been removed. Multiplayer is more like the original game I wanted, straight up racing.
Collecting balloons, searching an island for an race to compete in, fighting with the awkward controls are all part of Diddy Kong Racing that wasn’t appealing. When you finally get to racing then the fun tries hard to translate, but really doesn't make it through. Besides a few moments online and the occasional race I felt Diddy Kong was a minor disappointment. The Nintendo DS has better racing options then Kong’s offspring trying to catch the gravy train.
Gameplay: 5, Graphics/Sound: 4, Innovation: 3.5, Mojo: 5. Final: 5 / 10