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Mario Kart DS

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Another chance to sample the pleasures of Mario Kart DS, away from the clamour of E3's showfloor, ought to have presented an opportunity for a more reflective, studied examination of the game's handling nuances and track design.

It did, but in practice it was much more important that there was no one else waiting to jostle you off the demo pod, giving you the freedom to have another race... and another. And another. And then a few more.

Double Dash may have been the first instalment in the knockabout racing series to support more than four players, but this latest version brings eight together in heated competition in a style much more likely to please franchise purists.

It's best described as a halfway house between the game's 16 and 64bit incarnations, boasting the taut digital handling of Super Mario Kart - although the trademark hop-induced slide doesn't bite the tarmac quite as hard - and the broader, longer, more eventful but less technically challenging track design of Mario Kart 64.

Even though some of the original game's circuits make a very welcome comeback (along with other series favourites, Mario Kart DS following the current vogue for racing game greatest hits), they seem to have been widened to accommodate and encourage multiplied multiplayer chaos.

A shame for time-trial addicts, perhaps, but the moment you take out three rivals racing abreast with the new wide-blast bomb pick-up, you'll mind the track's girth a great deal less.

The races are brief and the track crowded enough to guarantee close finishes, even with the magnificently irritating AI drivers filling most of the slots, and revenge is never more than a button-press and a minute's wait away.

As a single-player game, Mario Kart DS is unlikely to outshine its brilliant SNES ancestor, and its success online depends on how well Nintendo's infrastructure comes together, but all the signs are that this will be fixture when DSes come together for years to come.

Mario Kart DS is out in November

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