A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this go-kart racing game has cartoonish, mischievous violence as players try to take each other out with various power-ups. Drivers lob turtle shells and balloons at opponents, leave banana peels for them to slide on, jolt them with lightning, leave bombs for them to run over, and squirt ink on windshields. When hit, karts spin out for a few seconds then keep on going. Released in 2005, this is still one of the best multiplayer games around, providing a quick, fun way for friends to compete.
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What's it about?
Like its predecessors, MARIO KART DS combines traditional racing mechanics with whimsical course design. A typical example is a course called Waluigi Pinball where you navigate around a giant pinball machine with bumpers, gutters, and giant rolling silver balls. Grand Prix mode offers eight Cup championships with four courses each; Nitro Grand Prix circuit offers 16 new courses, while the Retro Grand Prix offers a blend of classic courses from past Mario Kart games. Players choose from a roster of 11 Mario regulars to drive the kart; each character has a signature kart and a few fun alternatives like an egg, tank, or a tractor.
Is it any good?
Part of what makes this game so good is the plethora of game modes beyond the Grand Prix modes including Time Trials, VS races, Battle and Mission. The game allows up to three other people to compete through an ad hoc network or over WiFi.
One slightly controversial aspect is the effort to try to level the playing field: Power-ups are still a big part of the racing strategy, and karts running at the back of the pack receive better power-ups than those at the front. This is great if players of varying skill levels and ages want to play together, but it can be frustrating for the leaders. Still, the Mario Kart series has always been more about fun and inclusiveness than purely skills-based racing, and Mario Kart DS is no different. The game's stellar course design, top-notch production values, and depth make it the game by which all other DS kart racing titles must measure themselves.
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