Reviewed by Jimmy | 08.29.06
Mario Kart DS has made a big impact on the critics and gamers when it was released in late of 2005. Mario and his racing friends even toppled some huge racing series like Project Gotham and Grand Turismo in its several Game of Year rundowns. Finally, I get my hands on this pint sized version to see what all the hype is about. Stick around and read our review of Mario Kart DS.
Mario Kart actually began back in 1992 for the Super Nintendo and if you consider how much it rocked back then, it's easy to see how it has sustained it popularity over the years. Besides the normal Super Mario Bros, I believe the Kart series is the most adored by fans. From the original and through the systems (64, GBA, Gamecube) to the current new system, the DS, Mario Kart has created a wave that has influenced a host of other "wanna-be" Mario's. sorry Crash.
Mario and the Gang
In Mario Kart DS all your favorite characters from the Mario universe are included. Starting with the standard 8 (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Wario, Donkey Kong Yoshi, and Toad) and featuring four unlockable characters which are more uncommon as playable characters (Daisy, Dry Bones, Waluigi (Wario's Luigi), and Shy Guy) and one robot toy representation that was released in 1985. If you know him, you will be laughing; his name is R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy) and was the bomb back in the day.
One of the strongest appeals to Mario Kart DS is its easy controls. Like most Mario games the controls and gaming concept is kept pretty simple. (A) is to drive and the D-Pad controls your cart. If you want to achieve 1 st place over all the tracks you'll also have to learn how to drift and drift boost. Online you'll see a lot of drifting for sure, and really it's the only way to play Mario Kart. The technique is done by using the (right trigger) while cornering. Its takes some practice, but in it will come to you. Drift Boost is the same concept, accept you boost and drift at the same time. This is faster, but really doesn't take much more still than normal drifting.
There are also items and weapons placed in colourful boxes on each track which add a strategic aspect Mario. These are the normal affair, lightening bolts, stars, shells, mushrooms, bananas, empty decoy boxes and a few other Mario-esq weapons. The main strategy with weapons in Mario is when to fire; holding on to a projectile weapon is often a good idea. With items that drop behind your kart I usually fire them off soon after I pick them up. This is to clear room in my inventory for a better more optimistic weapon. Every gamers style is different, but weapons choice and usage is almost as important as how well you can drive the kart. My favorite is the Bomb-Omb which is basically a giant bomb that you lob forward. It's not always effective, but it's damn fun to watch explode.
Single Player Goodness
In the Nitro Grand Prix which is the main mode, you can enter eight different cup tournaments which each hold four different race tracks. Of course like they are all themed and jump in difficulty as you advance in the game, like before listed in 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc. In the single player mode you can also compete in Time Trials complete with ghost features, VS racing which is never ending, Battle Racing featuring two mini-games Balloon Battle and Shine Runners, and finally topping off the single player modes is the Mission section. The mission section is worth a look because it's a lot of fun and offers a different challenge then the normal racing. In the Mission mode you have to complete a number of mini challenges and move up the ranks. These challenges go something like hit 5 star cheeps or drive through a level backwards. The single player modes in Mario Kart DS are really loaded up and should give you enough options to keep this cartridge in your DS for a while.
It's a Mario, Online!
The online multiplayer portion of Mario Kart DS works pretty good and it's a lot of fun to finally have some online versus action in a Mario game. I found the multiplayer to be a little dulled down, but you can't really complain when you factor in how fun it is to run around online in Mario Kart. Finding friends is pretty easy and friend codes can be entered. Friends is always the best way to go because you never know who you'll run into online, or the frustration you might feel if you're getting disconnected because someone want to keep their win/loss record clean. It's Mario right? Why are people so serious? Anyways, overly the online action is fun and almost worth the investment of the game itself.
The lowdown for Mario Kart DS is an easy decision, pick this one up. Only if you despise the site of Mario should you pass on this title. Mario Kart DS is as good as ever and now you have the bonus of being able to play online. Pure brilliance, keep the Mario Kart games coming.
Gameplay: 9, Graphics/Sound: 8, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 10. Final: 8.5 / 10