Diddy Kong Racing DS

3 out of 5

Written by Dr_Worm on May 9, 2008

Back on the Nintendo 64, Rare was a dominating force in the gaming industry. Any game with the Rareware logo slapped on it instantly made it a classic. One of their first games on the system, Diddy Kong Racing, wasn't designed to compete with Mario Kart 64, but it turned out to be better on almost every level. Now it's reborn on the Nintnedo DS as - What else? - Diddy Kong Racing DS. Can this port defeat the almighty kart-racing giant that is Mario Kart DS? No. But it's still not bad.

On the plus side, Diddy Kong Racing DS has something that Mario Kart still doesn't have in any of its incarnations: An adventure mode. Fortunately, this has returned with is overworld mostly intact. There are a few differences, but nothing a fan of the N64 version won't get nostalgic about. You're still collecting balloons, racing each track twice (sort of), and still racing against boss periodically. The story is practically the same as before: One of Diddy's friends on a distant island informs him that his home is under attack by a giant pig and needs help...


But who cares about the story? All you need to know is that you race. As anyone who has played the old N64 version could tell you, you race in 3 different vehicles; The kart, the hovercraft, and the plane. The controls could have used some work, though. The kart works OK, but the plane is harder to control thanks to the DS' lack of analog movement, which is made doubly difficult on the DS Lite because of its wobbly D-Pad that feels like it refuses to work in diagonal directions. And the hovercraft? Forget about it! You thought it was difficult on the N64? Try it on the DS! It's just about impossible to steer this mess. I'm sorry Rare, but you really screwed up on this one. The hovercraft is supposed to be an excuse to drive on the water, but you slide around so much it feels like you're trying to ride a bicycle on a frozen pond. It would seem obvious that in order to go in the direction you want, you move that D-Pad that way too, but it only rotates your hovercraft in that way, it's hard to describe, so here's an image I drew in MSPaint to make it easier to understand.

I also don't really like the characters, probably because in order to make up for Banjo and Conker not being in the game, they had to add two other characters from the Donkey Kong Universe: Dixie Kong and Tiny Kong. My two favorite characters to use in the oringinal were Banjo and Conker, so for most of the game I decided to stick with TipTup. It's not like it matters, the characters don't feel very different from each other; A flaw in the original as well. They don't even have individual colors for their vehicles anymore.

However, new to Diddy Kong DS is a series of upgrades for your vehicles, giving them higher top speed, faster acceleration, or enhanced steering. Another plus is the new Silver Coin Challenge. Instead of racing along the track collecting 8 silver coins and winning, you're on a fixed path on each track and you have to use the touch screen to pick up coins as you go. It may sound weird, but it's strangely addicting and challenging without being frustrating. What is frustrating is the second time you race a boss. Before, you only had to race them again with a slightly harder difficulty. Now you have to race them using the touch screen. Half the time there's no problem. but some are so frustrating you'll bit your fingers off just yo have an excuse not to play them.

An upside is that the multiplayer is pretty fun; having 3 different vehicles to choose from on 24 different tracks adds a lot to its value. It can also go WiFi with up to 6 racers. Another good thing is the graphical quiality of the game. It doesn't run at the lightning fast 60 FPS of Mario Kart, but it does look a lot better and still runs at a steady FPS. The level creator is a bit so-so. On the one hand you can create your own level. On the other hand, they all look the same and have limited customization. And another downside is how you start off each race. Instead of pressing A at the right moment, you have to either blow into the microphone or use your stylus. It was actually intended that you use your finger, but it doesn't work that well, so you have to use your stylus to get the best start, but you have to go from the stylus to the D-Pad so quickly it feels like you need three hands to play. Man, this game has more ups and downs than an NES cheat code.

Just about every aspect of this DS port is good or bad, almost nothing bout it is neutral. It doesn't do anything better traditionally or with the DS' features, but it does have enough unique features that it's worth trying out at least as a rental. It's not great. It's not bad. It's a 3 out of 5.