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When people look back at the games that made Nintendo's handheld console huge, Mario Kart DS will be firmly at the top of the list. Please ladies and gentlemen let me introduce you to the next big racer on the DS, Track Mania. All the realistic physics of driving and a rewarding sense that you playing a good grown up driving game without any yoshing about. Firebrand Games have brought us a serious racer on the DS that feels just perfect.
You are given three driving styles/environments to choose from; stadium (grand-prix style), desert (American muscle) and rally (dirt tracks and cars). Each environment's car handles pleasingly differently making the experiences varied and rewarding. The lighting and feel of each track is spot on, even giving a nice sense of time of day, which is impressive on the limited power of the DS. There are times during the race that you can sit back and enjoy the pleasingly atmospheric scenes, the rest of the time is high speed racing; any slips of concentration usually ending up off road as the other racers zip by.
In fact if you are around my age you may remember Stunt Car Racer on the Amiga that achieved a similar thing; like racing on a roller coaster.
The are shed loads of tracks and they have been wonderfully designed to give a real sense on height, like cliff edge racing. In fact if you are around my age you may remember Stunt Car Racer on the Amiga that achieved a similar thing; like racing on a roller coaster. Parts of the tracks made from caging meaning you can see the ground far below as you precariously pull off a jump - while simultaneously correcting for mid air over steer - which would surely lead into wildly snaking off the track on landing.
The game unfolds in depth the more you unlock. It uses a crisp system of gold, silver and bronze medals of the same calibre of games like Project Gotham Racing 2; an unlocking system that makes you greedy, adding some spice to the racing. You earn money to unlock more levels, new areas of game play and new pieces of track; which brings us to the crux of Track Mania - track building.
There are a huge amount of track pieces from each different environment to use, the more you have unlocked via the solo game, the more varied track you'll be building. The building tools are perfect for the DS interface of stylus and screen, zooming and spinning about with ease. Track building is a real pleasure. There's a little fiddling around to get used to how the start and finish points are used but it's a minor niggle from a set of smoothly constructed tools and interfaces.
This is a labour of love. If you like Mario Kart you'll love Track Mania; Mario Kart for grown-ups.
The game play itself is an expansive offering of solo and multiplayer game modes, including the brilliant hotseat mode when you've got one DS, which works surprisingly well - you even get the other person's ghost car driving against you putting the pressure on.
As a perpetual gamer I'm always considering whether I'll still be picking up a game in a years time. Track Mania, like Mario Kart, has that depth to it; you know the more you play the more you'll want to play- fantastic.
The work put into this game by the developer shows. It's not knocked up for a quick buck; this is a labour of love. If you like Mario Kart you'll love Track Mania; Mario Kart for grown-ups.
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