Race mode is straight forward: get to the finish line as quickly as possible. Race mode is also where players will begin the game because it takes a number of bronze, silver, and gold medals to unlock other modes and tracks in the game. Racing against AI cars felt superficial because there’s no actual collision physics, so it’s more like racing the clock while having some ghost cars on the track. The opponent’s vehicles were helpful while I was playing a track for the first time because having them in front of me made it easier to see where the track turned next, which is sometimes hard to see on the DS’s screen.
Platform mode is what players familiar with the PC Trackmania games will be expecting. The tracks are more wild with hairpin turns, near impossible jumps and gravity-defying loops. Precision and practice is the key to platform mode. Because of the DS’s small screen, it’s hard to figure out where to drive on an unfamiliar track, but after one or two tries, most of the paths become clear.
Another feature Trackmania players should be happy to hear about is the track editor in Trackmania DS. The user interface works perfectly with the stylus in creating tracks. I only wish I could make larger tracks. What was helpful was the ability to place a vehicle anywhere on a track to test driving through that particular part. There were a couple times where I realized I made an impossible jump.
The graphics in the game serve their purpose and reminded me of old PC racing games I used to play in the early 90s; they’re not going to blow you away. I did like the added touch of different surfaces having a different feel to them: sand was more “slippery” to drive on than the asphalt on a racing track. I could do without the forgettable sound and music, but that’s what the volume control is for.
Trackmania DS isn’t a game for every racing enthusiast. It’s less about realism and more about ridiculous turns, loops, and jumps. As long as you get that right, and you have some patience for perfecting the ideal run-through, you can find enjoyment out of Trackmania DS.