Games like Trackmania shouldn’t really belong on the Nintendo DS. Super fast, ultra-precise racers with decent graphics and an emphasis on multiplayer challenges and huge environments? That’s just not something that sits well with the DS’ limited hardware and D-pad.
No, no. If Trackmania belongs on any handheld then it should be on the PSP, surely. A larger screen, more powerful innards and an analog stick – that’s what Trackmania really needs!
Yet, somehow, Trackmania DS manages to not only sit well with Nintendo’s handheld, but sits so comfortably you can practically hear the DS cart snuggling into it like a squirrel readying for hibernation. It’s tiny, cute and it works beautifully.
Not only does it work as its own game in fact, it actually works as a very good Trackmania game, successfully dragging the conventions of the PC game over to the DS like a squirrel bringing home nuts for supper.
The unpredictable and fantastically unrealistic tracks, the huge empty arenas, the crazy game modes and the easy to use editor – they are all here, condensed down to fit on the tiny dual screens.
As always though, Trackmania is a racing game that manages to polarise players into distinct groups. Those who want a deep and involving racing simulation, with car tweaks and worries about suspension will feel left out here because that’s not what Trackmania is about, even on the DS. Trackmania is more about insane speeds, huge jumps and playing the same impossible tracks over and over and over until you can avoid every pillar and pitfall on pure instinct.
That arcade focus, which has always been one of the main appeals of the series, can be felt everywhere. There’s no career mode option, no different cars to choose from, no trophies to win. There’s just three different environments, each of which only has one type of car in it, and a huge amount of crazy tracks.
Importantly, there’s not even any collision detection. In single and multiplayer your opponents are always ghost cars because the game is about skill and repetition, not damage physics and griefing.
To some people, the lack of collisions is a bit of a disappointment. It makes it seem that even when you’re playing with friends on the other side of the room that you still aren’t really playing with them, but it’s purely a matter of taste. In its defense, Trackmania requires a high-level of precision and speed out of players that would be damaged by cars that bounce off of one another constantly. The entire game is geared towards sheer speed and agility, like a squirrel scurrying around a tree trunk in the park on a temperate spring evening.
Y’know...we’re pretty sure that squirrels were a major design inspiration for the game.