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Chris Leigh
13 Jun, 2005

Ridge Racer DS Review

DS Review | Why driving cars with pens never really caught on.
We can picture the meeting at Namco HQ now: 'OK, so we have this extra screen right guys? So, c'mon, let's get creative, what are we putting down there? Hit me!' Maybe at this point a young go-getter in a suit piped up, 'How about a map?' Unoriginal, but not bad, we'd have thought, but wait, there's another suggestion from the other corner of the room: 'How about a rear-view mirror? Would certainly help things.' Well yes, that would help things. 'Good, good,' says the man at the front of the room. 'Any other ideas?' The room is silent for a second. Nervous glances are exchanged. And then, 'We could put a steering wheel down there and get them to turn it with a pen.' Bingo.

Now, although Namco should be praised for their willingness to attempt something new blah blah blah, you get the distinct feeling they'd have been better off just plopping a map down on the touchscreen, such is the unruly nature of the much-vaunted (by Namco, anyway) Touch Screen Steering. It works like this: on the touchscreen of the DS each time you start a race, there's a badly-drawn steering wheel. By scrawling over it with your stylus, it's possible to 'steer' said wheel, thus moving your car about on the top screen. Yes, it's as inept as it sounds. Quite simply, moving a stylus tip left and right of an invisible centre point just feels highly inaccurate. It doesn't work. At all. Infact, it makes us want to break things. The fact that you'll spend a good deal of time glancing back down at the bottom screen, thus taking your eyes away from the racing that's taking place on the top screen doesn't help, with these cursory glances proving - more often than not - fatal to your chances of winning.

People don’t drive cars with pens. There are reasons for this.

People don’t drive cars with pens. There are reasons for this.
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So within ten minutes (though being the professionals we are, we persevered for two hours), it's back to the trusty D-pad. And compared to moving a car with a stylus, it feels heavenly. Sadly, compared to an analogue stick, it feels rubbish. Admittedly the fact that Nintendo didn't plonk an analogue stick, or nub, or whatever you want to call it, onto the front of the DS, is hardly Namco's fault. But the D-pad can still work brilliantly in some racers. In games like the GBA's Super Mario Kart: Super Circuits, the D-pad offers an immediacy and a responsiveness that can't be beaten by an analogue stick. Driving with a D-pad is even enjoyable in the Grand Theft Auto games.

No, the problem here is that Namco have created a steering mechanic that simply isn't enjoyable. On almost any sharp corner of the game, your car is liable to start sliding manically. We appreciate that this slippery handling, or 'drifting' is the raison d'être for Ridge Racer games, but here it's overdone. So when you try and correct each 'drift', no matter how delicately you nudge the D-pad, you just end up over-correcting, and your car drifts some more in the opposite direction. Repeat until car hits wall and you can finally steady yourself.

So it's not a good start. And it doesn't necessarily get better. Certainly, the annoyance level is raised a few notches by the questionable collision detection - it's not unreasonable to expect cars not to pass through one another. But alas, within the first three races, this flaw rears it's primitive head. Spend just a few seconds grazing the rear bumper of an AI opponent, and - occasionally, though not always mind - said opponent will begin convulsing and twitching slightly as though possessed by some unearthly, supernatural force, before one half of your car passes almost clean through his. You've gained a place, but any joy to be reaped from this achievement is quickly tempered by the fact that the manouvre used to achieve this looked and felt so unconvincing. It's not only the car-to-car contact that looks distinctly shoddy either - clipping a mountain wall is all-too-easy, even if your car appears to be a foot or two away from the barrier.

The bumper view manages to make the racing slightly more dramatic.

The bumper view manages to make the racing slightly more dramatic.
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The races themselves are mundane, largely predictable affairs. Note to Namco: it's hard to find a racing game rewarding when 90% of your victories come by overtaking the car in first place as you both hurtle down the last home straight. It's all rather too convenient for our liking, see. And we're only further maddened by the 'commentator', an enthusiastic but hugely patronising American gentleman who screams sayings such as 'ALRIIIGHT! THIS IS GONNA BE A GREAT RACE!' or 'OK, IT'S THE LAST STRETCH! KEEP GOING!' or 'YOU DID IT! YOU'RE THE CHAMPION!' at every possible opportunity. Infact, in keeping with the rest of the game, it's all rather disappointing audio-wise, especially considering the excellent efforts of Namco's sound department on Tekken 5. The brief selection of music tracks is off-putting and insipid enough, whilst hitting another car produces a sound more akin to a Coke can being stepped on than two heavy juggernauts colliding at considerable speed.

There's a multitude of other little gripes we could mention: the complete lack of a rear-view mirror or the ability to look behind you is plain baffling. The track design is middling at best, though largely poor. The AI-controlled opposition is mind-numbingly predictable. The game has it's more positive moments of course, mostly to be found in the decent wireless multiplayer mode (PALGN tried with four systems and can confirm that the game, like so many others, is far better with human opposition). But as it is, this feels like lazy game design, from the frankly terrible stylus/steering idea to the over-compensating steering to the bland ‘win-race-A-to-unlock-car-B’ method of progress.

Whilst the likes of Pac-Pix and Yoshi’s Touch & Go have demonstrated that the Nintendo DS' touchscreen technology genuinely opens new possibilities for games, Ridge Racer DS joins Rayman DS in that expanding group of games that wastes the touchscreen entirely. And in this age of Burnout 3 and true analogue control, and with the PSP's glossy Ridge Racers on the way, we're left with a game that feels more 1995 than 2005.
The Score
It's a missed opportunity weighed down by cumbersome and lacklustre design. The multiplayer provides some fun, but with Mario Kart on it's way, it's worth neither the hassle or expense. 4
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 Comments
8 years ago
Still waiting for Mario Kart.
8 years ago
Ever heard of the thumbstrap?

I'll agree that the game is below expectations, but it's still not a bad game. the main problem as I see it is that the graphics are not so hot, and the presentation is a bit lacking.

This is the second lowest rating for the game on gamerankings, and other places have rated it as high as 87%:
http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages4/924896.asp

It's average rating is 65%.

I've only played it once, but I'd give it 6.5 or 7/10 myself. Driving with the thumbstrap is pretty good, actually!

That said, no way I'd buy it though. They announced Burnout legends for DS recently, wait for info on that. Or import a PSP and RR if you have $600 spare.
8 years ago
^ did you read the rest of his article?

given he had issues with:
collision detection and clipping
controls (via touchscreen)
controls (via d-pad)
controlability (slippery driving, ok this is a consequence of the above but still...)
speech
sound effects (ok, granted on a handheld you don't expect much in terms of SFX)
AI

i'm surprised it got away with as high a score as it did...
8 years ago
Ridge Racer on DS sadly looks like bs except for the fact you can use the touchscreen as a steering wheel.

Not even Nintendo's interactive features could save this ugly looking game.
8 years ago
David wrote
Ever heard of the thumbstrap?

I'll agree that the game is below expectations, but it's still not a bad game. the main problem as I see it is that the graphics are not so hot, and the presentation is a bit lacking.

This is the second lowest rating for the game on gamerankings, and other places have rated it as high as 87%:
http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages4/924896.asp

It's average rating is 65%.

I've only played it once, but I'd give it 6.5 or 7/10 myself. Driving with the thumbstrap is pretty good, actually!

That said, no way I'd buy it though. They announced Burnout legends for DS recently, wait for info on that. Or import a PSP and RR if you have $600 spare.
Below expectations is below average, hence 4.0.
However,i've played RR on the PSP and it creams this game.
8 years ago
Luke wrote
David wrote
I've only played it once, but I'd give it 6.5 or 7/10 myself. Driving with the thumbstrap is pretty good, actually!

That said, no way I'd buy it though. They announced Burnout legends for DS recently, wait for info on that. Or import a PSP and RR if you have $600 spare.
Below expectations is below average, hence 4.0.
However,i've played RR on the PSP and it creams this game.
^^Fair eneough. I agree with the score based on that.

I also agree with a lot of what Chris wrote, and that the game is not worth buying. I still wanna know if he tried the thumbstrap though!
8 years ago
Luke wrote
David wrote
Ever heard of the thumbstrap?

I'll agree that the game is below expectations, but it's still not a bad game. the main problem as I see it is that the graphics are not so hot, and the presentation is a bit lacking.

This is the second lowest rating for the game on gamerankings, and other places have rated it as high as 87%:
http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages4/924896.asp

It's average rating is 65%.

I've only played it once, but I'd give it 6.5 or 7/10 myself. Driving with the thumbstrap is pretty good, actually!

That said, no way I'd buy it though. They announced Burnout legends for DS recently, wait for info on that. Or import a PSP and RR if you have $600 spare.
Below expectations is below average, hence 4.0.
However,i've played RR on the PSP and it creams this game.
That is a good way to rate games - 5 being everage. However, I see how David may see this as a bad score, as many sites often give 6-6.5 as average these days.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Namco
Developer:
  Namco
Players:
  1-6

Extra:
Wireless multiplayer games for upto six players

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