And hey, if you’re a diehard TrackMania fan that’s probably what you’ll be doing anyway. I applaud the developers for shying away from the casual games trend. If you want a difficult game that doesn’t hold your hand then you’re entitled to it, and it’s certainly refreshing to see amid the torrent of cheap, exploitative casual shovelware. The problem with TMDS is that it might not have enough of what makes the PC games popular with their hardcore audience.
TMDS has a decent multiplayer with both multi-card and single-card play. It also has “Hotseat” mode that lets eight people pass a single DS around, racing the previous player’s best time. You can also share your custom tracks with other people who own the game. None of these modes, however, are online-enabled, which eliminates one of TrackMania’s enduring features: leaderboards. Competing with the best worldwide times has been a big part of TrackMania since the beginning, and leaving it out of the DS game doesn’t seem right. I can understand a lack of online racing, what with Nintendo’s awkward, counter-intuitive friend codes mucking everything up, but leaderboards are comparatively easy and usually featured in online-enabled DS games.
TMDS is also missing some of the breadth of its PC brethren, notably a few of the established terrain types. It isn’t lacking in content by any means and the visuals and music are faithful to the PC games, but the slightly lighter options and dearth of leaderboards makes it inferior to the PC versions when those features could have been easily implemented on the DS. It certainly isn’t a casual-friendly experience and I respect that, but longtime TrackMania players will only find the core essence of what they love about the series, without the bells and whistles.
TrackMania DS gets the basics of the series right on a handheld, and that’s decently impressive. It looks, sounds and plays great, but if you’re new to the series don’t expect TMDS to go easy on you—there’s a lot to unlock and the difficulty curve is rough. TMDS unfortunately lacks online leaderboards and some of the beefier aspects of the PC games, which might make it less attractive to longtime players.
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