Product Type: Nintendo Nintendo DS games
Newest Review: ... job. The basic premise of Mario Kart is that it is a racing game where you are given a generous supply of power-ups that you can use ag... more
Mario Kart DS - just watch out for those banana skins
Mario Kart DS (DS)
Member Name: KLockwood75
Mario Kart DS (DS)
Advantages: Fast, fun, family-friendly
Super Mario is probably one of the most iconic characters in video game history and Mario Kart is undoubtedly one of the most enduringly classic games. It is an entertaining, and strangely addictive, character-based racing game which is fun for the whole family. I remember playing Mario Kart on the original 'Super Nintendo Entertainment System' in our student house in the mid-90s in gaming sessions which grew increasingly competitive as the beer flowed. I also have fond memories of playing it on the Nintendo 64 against my then boyfriend (now husband) in our first ever home. We have also owned the versions for the Gameboy Advance, the Wii and the Nintendo DS - and it is the current Nintendo DS version that will be the focus of this particular review.
The Nintendo DS version of Mario Kart, like all previous versions of the game, features the classic Mario characters. These will be instantly recognisable to fans of the Super Mario franchise and include Mario himself, Luigi, Princess Peach, Yoshi, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Koopa Troopa and Toad. These eight characters appeared in the first version of Mario Kart. All the characters have slightly different attributes and racing styles, but most devotees of the Mario Kart series will already have their own favourites. After a brief flirtation with Yoshi in my younger days, I almost always race as Mario these days. You also get a choice of 2 karts for each character.
After selecting your character, you enter a race against 7 other characters. I mostly play in the Grand Prix mode where you have to compete in a series of four races and hopefully accumulate enough points in those races to finish on top of the podium. During the races, you drive into flashing blocks to collect items to help your quest for victory. These include many of the items from the original games - red shells to fire at the character immediately in front of you, green shells to aim at other players (or bounce around at random hoping to hit somebody) , a star to make you invincible, lightening to shrink everyone else and banana skins to trip up the characters behind you. There are also a few newer items such as the one that turns you into a bomb and flies you round the course... I find that you only get the really good items when you are near the back of the race, if you're right out in front you're lucky if you get anything much better than a banana skin!
Visually, Mario Kart works really well on the split screen Nintendo DS as you get a third-person view of your character and their kart on the top screen, and a map showing the track layout / positions of your opponents on the bottom screen. The graphics are very good, they are simple enough not to detract from the gameplay which I think is especially important for younger players, but incorporate all the features you would want from a game of this type.
One of my favourite elements of the Nintendo DS version of Mario Kart is that it features some of the circuits from previous versions of the game. There are four Grand Prix sets which have all new circuits and then a further four which have 'Retro' circuits. Each of the two sets of Grand Prix circuits increase in difficulty - the first two sets (the 'Mushroom Cup' in the new 'Nitro Grand Prix' series and the 'Shell Cup' in the 'Retro Grand Prix' series) are fairly easy, but by the time you get to the last few races it has often become a real challenge to stay on the track. There are 32 different circuits in all, and you can compete on those circuits at 50cc, 100cc and 150cc levels. The faster you go, the more difficult it is to win.
Apart from the Grand Prix mode, the following modes are also available. In '' Vs mode'' , you simply choose one individual track to race against the computer-controlled opponents. ''Time Trial' mode allows you to attempt to set the fastest time for an individual track, which is then saved as 'ghost data' that you can attempt to beat later on by racing against a ghost version of your character. There is also a 'Battle Mode' with two different games - the balloon battle where you have to use items to burst your opponents balloons, and 'Shine Runners' where you have to collect more 'Shines' than anyone else. The final mode is a 'Mission Mode' which uses mini games such as driving through five numbered gates in order to enhance your driving skills - you have to complete each mission to move on to the next. This is a fun mode for younger players as each game doesn't last very long and completing it gives them a sense of achievement.
Mario Kart DS is a fantastic game which provides hours of entertainment. The challenge of progressing through the Grand Prix mode, unlocking different circuits and then trying to win the cup at all three levels, gives the game enduring playability as it does take a reasonable amount of time to complete it, even if you're a far better player than I am. It is a brilliant game for younger gamers too - my five year old adores it and doesn't even get too frustrated when he doesn't win, as he enjoys playing it so much. The retro element of including tracks from the older versions of Mario Kart will appeal to anyone who has grown up with the game, and it also makes a good conversation point with younger players. Overall, I would definitely recommend Mario Kart DS, both to existing fans of the franchise and to anybody who hasn't yet given it a try.
Summary: A great racing game for all the family to enjoy
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