The DS is well known for its addictive, groundbreaking Mario Kart entry, but there aren't a lot of noteworthy serious racing games for the portable. Focus Home Entertainment is bringing its signature racer to the platform with TrackMania DS
. I received it this weekend and I've been playing it for the last couple days, and so far I'm impressed.
The first thing you should know about TMDS is that it's a pretty deadpan take on racing--don't expect any wacky items or cartoony graphics. The races challenge you to get the best time on three rankings, bronze silver and gold, and earning medals unlocks harder difficulty levels. The practice mode was difficult as it is, so I expect I'm in for some unforigivng times in the tracks ahead. The track design is unpredictable and covers three types of terrain, with different car types for each one. The dragsters were easy enough to handle but the other car models feel a bit too touchy on the DS's D-pad.
The game's defining feature is its track editor. I played with it for about half an hour and built some serviceable raceways. The DS contros take a while to get accustomed to but the stylus really does lend itself well to mapmaking. You can drag your car onto any point of the track and test your course on the fly, which is a great option.
I'll keep digging into TrackMania DS and have a full review up in the next couple of weeks. So far it's a solid racer with a lot of customization potential, I just hope the rather minimalist presentation doesn't get dull.