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Trackmania DS: Trackmania on the Brainia

Company: Atlus

DS gamers wondering what Trackmania DS represents to the gaming community need only check out the main website to get a feel for the huge community backing the Trackmania brand. This is like some kind of gaming royalty, selling over a million copies since its release in 2003, and breaking the Guinness Book record with over 250 online players racing simultaneously. The reason some players stateside may not immediately recognize Trackmania is that the game reached its original zenith in France, home of almost no American pastimes, except perhaps that American Werewolf business... Transitioning an online, PC-only series to the DS over any other console may seem a strange choice, but there are some things going for Nintendo's mighty handheld that make it ideal for introducing Trackmania to a larger audience.

Knowing the limitations on graphics, it's reasonable to wonder about Trackmania DS from a presentation standpoint. The good news is that the game has a solid interface, with good, crisp visuals, interesting cars, and well-defined backgrounds around each track. The perspective can shift to accommodate different viewing preferences, and the editor feature that is a staple of Trackmania appears intact. We've seen racing games with full featured editors before, as recently as last year with GRID and Race Driver: Create & Race. The meaningful difference for DS gamers, if there is one, must come from gameplay and features. There doesn't appear to be enough to make Trackmania DS really stand out from the crowd.

What's unique about Trackmania DS is that it aims to integrate a deep editor with an equally deep multiplayer racing mode. Offering a wealth of multi-card and single-card racing options, Trackmania DS is supposed to be the racing game you and your friends have been waiting for all this time. The essence of this game is big, multiplayer, online races. Translating that to the DS through Nintendo Wi-Fi is a smart move, as long as the frenetic pace of the original Trackmania is preserved in this version. The other theme of the original was in wild tricks and mid-air moves that would make Tony Hawk want to hang up his deck and go home.Imagine grinding a rail in a high performance race car and you get the sense of excitement and adrenaline that Trackmania has inspired in its legion of online followers.

Considering the technical limitations of the DS, the bet Trackmania DS is making would seem to be on the side of volume. There's a huge installed base of DS gamers that most likely haven't experienced Trackmania in its other incarnation. Bringing a heavy-gauge racing experience to a handheld console has been the Holy Grail for several companies, with some good recent results. Just as DS gamers are late to the Trackmania party, it may end up that Trackmania DS is too late to the party to capture the hearts and minds of the DS faithful. After we have some time with the game, we'll be in a better position to judge whether gamers will have "Trackmania on the brainia" when this puppy hits shelves.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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