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Joseph Rositano
16 May, 2007

Diddy Kong Racing DS Review

DS Review | Monkey see, monkey do.
Diddy Kong Racing was perhaps one of the most loved, and fondly remembered, Nintendo 64 games of its time. Many even favoured it over Mario Kart 64, due to its stronger single-player adventure and CPU-controlled player functionality on the battle tracks. Roughly ten years on, the game is now available on the DS, and features many new additions including online play and upgradeable vehicles and while for the most part they are suitably implemented, a few hiccups are met along the way that hinder the experience slightly.

For those that never played the Nintendo 64 version, the game has somewhat of a B-grade storyline, one that tells the tale of an evil pig named Wizpig who has invaded a small island and is wreaking havoc for its inhabitants. Tired of this, the animals write to Diddy Kong and ask for his assistance. Complying with the message, Diddy calls forth Tiny and Dixie Kong to aid him in his quest. Upon arrival, you’re also met by Taj, a magic elephant genie who wants to help you. Strange as it sounds, it somehow manages to work, even in a time where "mature" titles have flooded the market.

Unlike Mario Kart's weapon system, where the players at the back of the group get all the thunderbolts and stars, all the weapons in Diddy Kong Racing are available equally to all players, meaning the game requires a touch more skill than what you'd normally find in these sorts of games. Players can even choose their own weapons by selecting the corresponding coloured balloon. So for example, if you wanted a speed boost, you would grab a blue balloon, or if you wanted a projectile, you would grab a red balloon. Picking up multiple balloons of the same colour will also power-up the weapon so that it's more effective during a race. Adding to the DS version however, are special "power-up tokens", which are placed throughout each track and, upon use, will upgrade any weapon to a fourth form. regardless of whether you’ve collected multiple balloons or not.

Watch your hat Diddy, it might blow off

Watch your hat Diddy, it might blow off
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Adventure Mode, the game’s main single-player mode, is largely similar to the Nintendo 64 version: you’re placed on the island and have to race on a total of 20 tracks spanned across five different themed worlds, including prehistoric times, snowy mountains and a beach. It’s not as simple as it sounds however, although there's no set path you have to take, and each race track is locked until you acquire a corresponding amount of golden balloons to open its doors. The golden balloons are obtained via three methods: completing a challenge, locating a hidden one on the island or simply reaching first place in a race.

Each world will also, inevitably, pit you against a boss in a 1-on-1 race, though a few things have changed for the DS version. Many of you would probably remember that once you raced against a boss, they would send you back to the domain’s tracks to race against slightly harder opponents and collect coins. This has since been abolished (although you can unlock it as a bonus game mode) and changed into an "on-rails" balloon-shooting challenge, which makes full use of the DS touchscreen. You will be placed on top of Taj’s flying carpet with the camera changed to a first person viewpoint. The carpet will fly around the track leaving you the task of popping balloons by tapping them with the stylus and collecting coins by dragging them into a bag placed in the corner of your screen. By sliding the stylus across the touchscreen, you’ll also be able to look around and pop any balloons which managed to sneak behind you. Although on paper (or in this case, a PC monitor) this sounds like a gimmick, it is surprisingly addictive and acts as a nice break from racing in a standard vehicle. Yet while the touchscreen is utilised effectively in this area, it is poorly executed in others.

There’s no doubt by now you’ve seen the Diddy Kong Racing commercial ads on TV and plastered all over Nintendo Australia’s webpage, the ones where the guy spins the aeroplane propeller in a circle on the touch screen. This technique is used to perform a start-up boost, and feels very gimmicky. In addition to the propeller, when you’re racing in a car, you have to spin a wheel while the hovercraft will have you blow into the DS microphone. The problem with this is that the stylus gets in the way at the beginning of the race and you have to either quickly place it into your palm while adjusting your hand onto the buttons, or simply toss it aside altogether. Blowing into the microphone is even worse. Not only will you feel short of breath after a while, (we weren’t happy by the fact we kept missing the first item balloon in a boss race so we kept restarting the challenge), you won’t be able to see where you’re going because you’ll have your face close to the mic instead of focusing on the screen.

Looks like the entrance fee to PALGN's Secret Warehouse of Fun is ten golden balloons... or ten kegs of beer

Looks like the entrance fee to PALGN's Secret Warehouse of Fun is ten golden balloons... or ten kegs of beer
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But ironically, the wooden spoon award doesn’t go to any of the aforementioned gimmicks; instead, it goes to something far worse - the newly added third boss challenge. The idea behind this is that all traditional controls are disabled and you have to guide your vehicle (which is placed on the top screen) by drawing a path for your character’s icon on the touchscreen, all while trying to beat a rampaging boss. However, once your vehicle reaches the end of the path, it will stop dead in its tracks and then you’ll have to spin, making it seemingly impossible to finish - you literally have no control over the accelerator or brakes. At the time of writing, we hadn’t even bothered trying to complete one of these challenges due to their terrible controls. Fortunately, the challenge isn’t necessary to complete to win the game and doesn’t hurt the game’s appeal too badly, but it's still an element that wouldn't have been missed.

Perhaps the biggest change to Diddy Kong Racing DS is the new Wishes Menu, where you can unlock and change several aspects of the game. These include new race tracks, game modes, the ability to record and replace existing sound effects, and even change the look of your vehicle. These bonuses don’t come cheap though, as you’ll have to use coins which are obtained on race tracks, or locate hidden coins around the island. Given most upgrades cost around 60 or more coins, and on a normal basis you’d be lucky to collect ten coins per race, it goes without saying it will take game-completing enthusiasts a fair while to unlock everything. In terms of gameplay functionality, the Wishes Menu’s primary option is the ability to upgrade your vehicles. Essentially, you can choose to upgrade a vehicle’s top speed, acceleration or handling. Better yet, the plane, hovercraft and car are all separately upgraded, which is a great idea given they handle and react differently from one another.

The game’s strongest element comes from its Wi-Fi multiplayer modes. Unlike the usual four-player Wi-Fi battles you’re used to playing, Diddy Kong Racing DS supports up to eight players via either single or multi-card download play, and gives you the option of choosing a single race, or holding a tournament. As you would expect, single-card multiplayer has less tracks available to race on as opposed to multi-card play, but fortunately this is limited to only a few tracks, and all playable characters are widely available. Online play support for up to six players via Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection Service is another strong point for the game. In terms of lag issues, we experienced none whatsoever, and were able to enjoy every session equally as we did when playing normal multiplayer.

Looks like "7" isn't your lucky number

Looks like "7" isn't your lucky number
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Graphically, the visual style has changed slightly from the Nintendo 64 version but generally everything looks the way it did almost a decade ago. Nevertheless, there will be a few instances when surroundings have changed such as the island’s beach area being a tad smaller than we remember but it’s bearable and doesn’t directly affect gameplay. In comparison to other DS titles though, Diddy Kong Racing DS isn’t pushing the system to its limits, even if everything does run smoothly at a respectable frame rate.

Much of the staple Diddy Kong Racing music has been given the remix treatment and will instantly bring back fond memories of those long Summer afternoons spent playing the Nintendo 64 version. Some courses have even been given completely new music tracks; far from a bad thing given how each course had its own unique theme. Sadly, the speech that would mumble during cutscenes has now been replaced by simple, silent text.

Overall, if you fully intend to take advantage of the game’s multiplayer options, then there’s no reason for you not to get Diddy Kong Racing DS, as it provides a solid and enjoyable experience. Those looking for a good single-player racer may want to stick to Mario Kart, though be warned that some of the touchscreen controls will eventually get on your nerves and, to be quite honest, the game’s replay value falls significantly.
The Score
Although a few hiccups are met along the way in the form of the touch screen elements, gameplay remains solid enough to keep you playing until the end. Multiplayer is the game’s saving grace. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 Comments
6 years ago
Yeah, I loved the original N64 game, I'm picking this up whe nI get money icon_smile.gif
6 years ago
It was bearable on the N64 as its counterpart Mario Kart 64 was rather abysmal. However on the DS, as a straight port, it is no competition whatsoever for Mario Kart DS. Its hard to recommend it to those who have Mario Kart DS, and its better to recommend those without MKDS to get that rather than Diddy Kong Racing DS..
6 years ago
I like it. I don't like alot of the touch screen controls on it but the multiplayer aspect of it is still very fun.

That being said Diddy Kong Racing is still no Mario Kart and never was. Just doesn't play the same.
6 years ago
I find that this is better then mario becasue it actually has you racing! Mario kart is too often won and lost via the use of pick-ups. Here you either follow the racing line, or go for the item you need (you know strategy), so you win becasue you raced better, not because your opponent picked up the right pickup (at random) just before you crossed the line.

As for the touch screen booster.... use your left hand thumb on the lite and its no drama (at least for me) AND I'd take this over some micro-second button press boost any day........
6 years ago
Passa wrote
It was bearable on the N64 as its counterpart Mario Kart 64 was rather abysmal.
*BITCHSLAP*

Hold your tongue swine.
6 years ago
emech wrote
I find that this is better then mario becasue it actually has you racing! Mario kart is too often won and lost via the use of pick-ups. Here you either follow the racing line, or go for the item you need (you know strategy), so you win becasue you raced better, not because your opponent picked up the right pickup (at random) just before you crossed the line.

As for the touch screen booster.... use your left hand thumb on the lite and its no drama (at least for me) AND I'd take this over some micro-second button press boost any day........
Pickups definitely had the potential to change the game in DKR64, but I totally agree that it was far more strategic. Generally, if you were the best overall racer (taking into account racing, pickups etc) you would win. In MK64, pickups would occasionally unfairly change the game at random times. No strategy involved. However, multiplayer was still killer because that tended to balance out more.
6 years ago
i dont compare mario kart and diddy kong racing, they are both good and both fun and i dont see how comparing them will do anything,
this game is going to be great over wi-fi connection same as MKDS
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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:
  Nintendo
Developer:
  Rareware
Players:
  1-8

Extra:
Wi-Fi enabled
Rumble Pack support

Read more...
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