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MARIO KART DUAL SCREEN

31 December 2005

For Christmas my girlfriend gave me Mario Kart DS. I had played it a while before with classmates on school (as Shy Guy; the only character available to people not owning the game itself) and decided I wanted it. This was a strange thing: I'm notoriously meh about racing games. Only a few of them have ever caught my appeal.

Midtown Madness was one of them. Not really a racing game; rather a [i]cruising[/i] game where you just drove around in a big city to while away the time. Another was Skunny Karts; a Mario Kart clone of the first generation. I mainly played this for lack of better games and its multiplayer-on-one-keyboard feature. I guess the first two Grand Theft Auto's (then still quite wacky games!) as well, if you can call them racing games. The thing is; all of these are rather borderline. More about everything else than the racing. Mario Kart DS is the first 'real' one I've ever had.

I just can't help it, I love the game! It seems perfect for the platform; showing off the Nintendo DS' seamless multiplayer capabilities and also making for a quick play. Streamlined as it is; it's really still too much trouble to go sit in front of a TV and do the controller tango to play one of the console kart-games. Now it's just a matter of flicking on the DS and you can play anyway you want. It's far more relaxing and casual, and that's what these games are all about.

I think it's all the items and crazy things inside the game that make it so attractive to me. It's not particularly deep: the tracks are pretty straightforward and the few tricks like power-sliding and riding on an opponent's slipstream are all there is. But it's perfect. More would have cluttered the game (Mario Kart: Double Dash!! was always a bit tougher because of the changing-characters-mid-race mechanic); now it's just a streamlined experience. The power-sliding proves enough of a challenge to keep the game interesting. And if you suck at it; there's still the luck-factor the items bring in. Sometimes you can win just by rolling the right item at the right time. I think the fact that you can still have great fun even when you're losing (in multiplayer!) is key to me liking the game. The amount of tracks is generous as well: 16 new tracks and 16 retro ones, making for a diverse playing field.

I don't really have a point to this rant, other than telling how much I like Mario Kart DS. Oh, and happy new year!

Roderick.