Having now beat this game into the ground, I'm ready to render a verdict in several subsections:
Single-Player Grand Prix Mode - Awesome but flawed. With 32 courses and four speed/difficulty levels, it just never seems to end. That's a good thing. My complaint is with the AI in later levels. It's as if the game selects one character who, no matter their kart's actual abilities, will win. So, if you don't consistently place ahead of the character who the AI system has designated as the #1 kart for that set of races, you will lose. This flaw is not so deep as to render this mode unplayable as I've sunk more time here than anywhere else in the game.
Single-Player Mission Mode - Fine. I mean, it's a nice break from racing. The best part is how it subtly teaches you a number of shortcuts for the courses. Nothing you'd want to replay but still entertaining.
Time Trial Mode - The ability to wirelessly trade ghosts with your friends is brilliant. That you can only carry ten extra ghosts total is stupid. Do the math and you'll see I'm right. 10 / 32 = dumb.
Battle Mode - The difference between an innovation and a gimmick is that a gimmick doesn't lend to replayability. I've played battle mode twice. Reason? Instead of starting with three balloons, you start with one balloon and have to "blow up" the other two by puffing on the DS microphone. Either that or let off the accelerator and hold down a button while your enemies zero in on your location.
Wireless Multiplayer - The best part of the whole package. Up to eight DS units with support for single cartridge play. Total madness. Thanks to this feature alone, I've had more Mario Kart sessions in more locations than any other handheld game: movie theaters, traffic jams, college lecture halls, video game conferences. Everybody has it and everybody is ready to play. This is what makes Mario Kart a must-have DS title.
Online Multiplayer - Not as great. The Friend Code system is needlessly complex. The matchmaking is slow and random. The competition will mercilessly kick your ass (because of the random matchmaking). There's no online battle mode (which isn't a total loss because of...see above).
Overall, this is a satisfying entry in the Mario Kart series which you'll encounter again and again when you meet up with other DS users.
Date Reviewed: November 21, 2006
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