|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rare||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 5, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
If you've already played the N64 version of Diddy Kong Racing, then you may find the new additions amount to diddly squat racing.
Diddy Kong Racing is a revamped version of the original that appeared on the N64 a decade ago. I can't say that it's been improved, and the new content is hardly worth the expense. However, gamers that haven't played it may be able to find some favor with it. It's a classic game that goes a step beyond generic kart racing, but it just doesn't compare to the original N64 version. The problems stem from the poor 3D graphics and the touch control system which would have been best left to the face buttons. The beauty of this game was the great 3D graphics and the simple but effective control system. The conversion to the DS has changed this beauty to a beast.
Diddy Kong Racing for the DS features old and new characters, as well as some of your favorite vehicles that travel on land, on sea, and in the air. Characters such as Tipsy, Timber and Taj will be on hand and there are some new unlockable riders. Vehicles can be upgraded by collecting coins and by all accounts, you're going to need these upgrades to compete against some of the bosses. The game forces you to obtain these upgrades. Coin collecting can be done during races as well as in mini-games. It's not hard to collect them, but it's not much fun either.
Those that are familiar with the original are likely to find themselves overly familiar with the game. The tracks are the same. The bosses are the same, and even the hidden stuff is located in the same places. The new features do nothing to enhance this game. While the DS may be a handheld powerhouse compared to the GBA, it lacks sufficient processing power to handle complex 3D environments. Admittedly there are some games that can pull it off, especially when rendering corridor-style environments, but Diddy Kong Racing is more than just hallways. It needs a virtually living and breathing interactive environment. This version only serves to highlight just how limited the DS can be.
The only time the environments look great is when the game is static. During races, the textures are blurry and mushy, with plenty of aliasing to help obscure the outline of the track. Not being able to see the track clearly can be a serious problem in a racing game, but you don't need me to tell you that. The low-res graphics also obscure the speed boosts located on the track. Failure to hit these boosts at a critical time can cost you many a race. With such poor graphic quality, it only follows that your 3D perspective will also be hindered when controlling any of the vehicles. Just turning around can be a lesson in frustration, which is made even more maddening by the introduction of the touch control system.
After completing a certain race or defeating a boss, you will unlock a touch version of that particular event. This requires the use of the stylus. You will use the stylus to plot your vehicle's course, steer, and turn. By using the stylus to turn the car's tires or the plane's propeller, boosts can be facilitated. The hovercraft requires that you blow into the mic to give it a boost. The boosts are performed before the start of the race which makes it very difficult to regain control your vehicle since you have to get your fingers back on the face buttons and get rid of the stylus the instant they start moving.
The three main vehicles are capable of carrying a special item or weapon such as an oil slick, boost, magnet, shield, or missiles. For the most part, these items will have little effect on the outcome of the race. At the same time, you can't rely on driving skills and strategy either. There are just too many variables to take into account, such as the poor quality graphics, that will adversely affect your performance. You will, however, need to upgrade your vehicle. This is one area that you have little control over. Skill will not allow you to compensate for speed, power, and strength.
An announcer has been added to identify all the tracks. There are no backwards tracks - and you can't do flips with the plane either. The music and sound effects are virtually identical to the original. The sounds are pure arcade pop, bright and cheery. It's great that something made it unscathed from the port.
Up to eight players can race in the wireless multiplayer mode, but that doesn't make things any more fun. Due to the tiny screen, it's actually best to play the original four-player mode so that you can see things better. It's rare that a single-player mode is more fun than a multiplayer mode, but the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the developers that were unable to fully harness the DS capabilities.
Diddy Kong Racing isn't so terrible, if you have nothing to compare it to. It just doesn't lend itself to the DS. There's no doubt it would have fared much better on the PSP, but just try to convince Nintendo of that. The developers ultimately failed at trying to incorporate DS features into gameplay that clearly doesn't need it. It's a classic game in its classic form and I implore you to find a friend, or his or her older brother, that may have a N64 in the closet and a copy of Diddy Kong Racing. You'll be much better off.
CCC Senior Writer