TrackMania is arguably one of the best examples of an arcade-style racer on the PC. It's fast, frantic, and furious, and has an enormous following of players, can it keep this same enjoyment on it's mini version for the Ninetendo DS, let's find out!
A lot of it's success comes from the sheer simplicity of it. From it's non-existant price tag to it's surprisingly accessible track editors, too the simple controls and the lightning-quick loading times, it's really a game for people who want to play without hanging around.
If you're already a die-hard fan of TrackMania then reading this review is a tad pointless - you're going to like it. Very little has changed in terms of controls and gameplay, so unless the step down in graphics ruins the deal for you, you're gonna love this game.
It follows closely in the footsteps of it's older brother version for the PC. After setting up a profile you can start racing immediately, and winning races earns you medals. Earning medals (bronze, silver, and gold) in turn unlocks more tracks. There are a lot to choose from - 75 in total, by my calculations. But only 12 are available at first, add in two additional modes (Platform and Puzzle) and you've got yourself quite a chunky racing game.
The only gripe I have with this is that the game forces you to play all three of the race types they offer (Stadium, Desert, and Rally) before you can unlock more tracks. This would be fine but the cars handle so differently it was quite jarring. By the time I'd adjusted to the Desert courses I was having to switch to the Rally cars, then by the time I'd got used to them I was back to the Stadium. It would have been far better to have the locations seperated as different game modes.
While that sounds like I'm complaining about the controls I actually found them very good. The cars handle very well and have their own distinctive traits - the Stadium F1-style cars are fast and turn smoothly, the Desert cars turn left and right with surprising precision, and the Rally cars drift around corners very nicely. The cars themselves are a little plain but you can purchase new skins for them in the store using money you earn from races.
The courses are spectacular. Fans of the PC game will feel right at home as enormous loops and sneakily tucked-away traps litter the racing area. Almost everything has been carried over nicely, which is quite an impressive feat. Graphically, it gets a little intense, and there are some occasions where the framerate stutters a little, but it's nothing too distracting.
Whilst I'm on a graphical whinge, it's very impressive to see how much they managed to cram in but the considerably cut-down quality of the graphics very nearly spoil the game. It was very hard, borderline impossible in fact, to make out the turns ahead and obstacles in some courses. On many occasions I was swerving into walls because I couldn't make out the direction the course was taking. Were it not for the instant respawn option this would have completely shot the game down, but really it ends up becoming a mere annoyance.
The track editor is as in-depth as the PC version although it's a little harder to use. It took a lot more time and effort to make a decent track, but to be honest the amount of pre-designed tracks the game provides you with means you probably won't need to make more.
All in all, TrackMania DS is a very solid game, probably one of the best racers on the DS. It hooked me in nicely and while the graphics take a very hefty chop from the PC version it's nothing too devastating. If you want a lightning-fast racing game with heaps of tracks I can heartily recommend it. While the PC version is naturally better (primarily because of the online play) the DS version is absolutely perfect for people who don't mind going solo.
Trackmania (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
All in all, TrackMania DS is a very solid game, probably one of the best racers on the DS. It hooked me in nicely and while the graphics take a very hefty chop from the PC version it's nothing too devastating.