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It’s important to pay attention when playing Trackmania DS. Races are usually from 10 seconds to no more than a minute long, so you can miss the gold medal time by just tenths of a second by turning three or four degrees too far on a sharp corner. There were lots of “do overs” during our time with the game, but we didn’t find it frustrating. Turning a bit too much, or rocketing over a guard rail, can be fixed by hitting X, which returns you immediately to the previous checkpoint. For the bigger boo-boos, Y will restart the current track. Then you’re instantly off again and into another series of rapid-fire moments of racing success and failure.
What you won’t find are power-ups, missiles, banana peels or explosive rainbow blocks. The only controls are gas, brake and steering. There are only three cars, they’re preselected for each race, but they each handle with unique personality. Likewise, the tracks are peppered with pillars, walls, loops and holes, but nothing that shoots, moves or feels unfair.
Each track has gold, silver or bronze level times, and if you can beat them, you’ll be awarded the corresponding medal and some Coppers, the in-game currency for unlockable tracks, car skins and track-building blocks. You can practice the game solo, with up to three ghost racers, who will show you how close you are to getting the next medal. Multiplayer lets you trade off turns racing with just one DS or link-up and race against up to three other racers at a time.
Aside from the standard racing, you can challenge yourself with Platform and Puzzle modes or build tracks with the hundreds of unlockable track pieces. The track builder is easy to use. Most pieces are dragged, dropped and manipulated with the stylus, and there are many to unlock by winning races and earning Coppers.