This PC online racer comes to the DS with superb track creation tools but no multiplayer. So, is the single player good enough?
Trackmania DS is a good racing engine built on a game which is the stunted sibling of its fun loving and multi talented PC sister. This may be judging Nadeo’s first foray into console gaming a little harshly but despite being impressed with this latest iteration of the series it soon becomes obvious what a missed opportunity this title represents.
Technically Trackmania is superb offering sixty frames per second racing while still looking impressive graphically. Not only this but racing isn’t hampered by long load times, most only lasting a few seconds and thats only on the initial load up. After a track has loaded races can be restarted with a mere push of the X button, that may seem like a small side note but once you have failed a 40 second long race by driving into a bollard the frustration immediately subsides when your back racing again within a fraction of a second. Cars flip, bounce, and fly needing a high degree of precision when tackling the titles more difficult corners such as loop-de-loops and horizontal corner jumps.
Game modes are split into three distinct areas, race, platform and puzzle. Race mode is self explanatory where the aim is to beat your competitors time to the finish line, platform tests a players ability to skilfully navigate a tracks traps and pitfalls and finally puzzle mode where your aim is to complete an unfinished track using the games editor to achieve a strict time trial limit. Its an interesting take on racing games and provides timid users a chance to use the approachable track editor. These modes all help to split up the racing, giving the player enough variety in the objectives they have to accomplish while offering rewards in the guise of medals which once earned unlock harder challenges within the game.
It seems like the number three is very popular with developers Firebrand because not only is there three different modes but also three different vehicles and track environments. The stadium environment is meant exclusively for the fast open wheeled racer which corners with precision and handles enjoyably. The desert environment is what you would expect coupled with a stock car racer which is twitchy and heavy. The final environment is the countryside with the rally car providing the four wheel amusement, mixing the speed of the formula one car and the twitchy nature of the stock car it handles it handles smoothly but can turn on a sixpence.
In all honesty the differences between cars and environments don’t really amount to huge game play changes, it would have been nice to not be restricted by only being able to use one type of car for its respective environment but these changes are also linked to the track layout as well. The different environments on which you race also symbolise subtle differences in race types but for a fully fledged title this isn’t enough. The different types of car and different backdrops for your circuits feels limited and a bit lazy, track environments seem empty and lack any kind of life. Perhaps a lack of memory was an easy but surely some cacti for the desert environment or trees for the rally environment wouldn’t tank the frame rate too much.
The track editor is one of the features which separates this title from other racers, it gives players all the assets they need to make their own tracks in an easy to use system. Blocks of track are placed down and snap together with relative ease, and the more complicated track pieces such as the half pipes require a little more precision. But there is nothing quite like sharing tracks with your friends and then racing against each other on them, especially when your buddy flys off a corner that you’ve made with devilish intent.
DS owners can swap tracks locally and as many as four players can race and swap tracks at once, but all this does little to offer what Trackmania has always been about, the user created content. Modders are the closest we gamers have to mad scientists and they have made the Trackmania franchise what it is today with an amazing following, constant competitions, track assets and inventive constructions. Yet this DS iteration has no online component, just local play options. This without any doubt represents a missed opportunity and its unfortunate because with the wealth of DS games that feature wi-fi sensibility’s this could actually be one of the few titles that warrant them, not even a leader board is to be had to showcase our best times for bragging rights.
Trackmania DS at its core is an incredibly fun title and one that from a technical stand point at least, is impressive. If your a fan of the franchise you will both marvel at what developers Firebrand have been able to achieve yet be bemused by what components have been left out of your beloved racer. The emulation of this unique brand of racing has been achieved to a high level but instead of pushing the bar to its obvious conclusion publishers Nadeo seem to be content with just providing the bog standard options of a DS racer. Which is a shame because the Octane engine coupled with a few extra options such as online and a few more vehicles could have made this the best racer on the DS, as it is its just another better than average racer which lacks ambition.