Fast cars, burning rubber, furious racing - these are things that makes Ridge Racer Ridge Racer. Compared to other driving games, the emphasis is on fun rather than realism. There are no real-life car types or fancy physics to worry about. Instead, you're encouraged to throw your vehicle around the bends by jabbing at the accelerator, putting the car into a long sideways skid - which is known as the drift - and hoping you make it out the other side without hitting the barriers.
Right from the off Ridge Racer DS doesn't mess around either with quick race, single player and multi-player modes available. As you might imagine, quick race is exactly that. In fact it maybe a little too quick, because bizarrely, you can't choose the car or track you want to race. You just dive straight in. But it's a bit limited so single player mode is where you'll spend most of your time. There are Grand Prix races you have to win to unlock the 20 available tracks and Car Attack races for unlocking the 32 cars. There's also a time attack mode where you can get a little practise or try to get your fastest time higher up the score-board. The multi-player mode allows you to play with up to six mates with only one game between you, although your choice of tracks is limited unless you all have a copy of the game.
But down to the starting line. The first thing to say is that even while DS isn't the most powerful machine out there, Ridge Racer DS looks pretty dated. This becomes a real issue on the night time tracks when it's difficult to see where you're supposed to be going. Combined with the narrow, twisty courses and an over-sensitive control system and you'll be finding yourself ricocheting from one wall to the next like an automotive pinball. In terms of driving control you either have the option of using the d-pad or the touchscreen to steer, but neither method is comfortable and using the stylus gives you a feeling that your car's not really connected to the track.
Disappointingly, the artificial intelligence of the computer drivers you're racing against is non-existent too. Not only will they stick to their racing line without deviation no matter how you drive, but some cars will speed up and slow down in such a way that you will be left with the impression the race is as fixed as a wrestling match. The ropey physics are a let down as well. Collisions with other vehicles have seemingly random results that can stop your car dead or even send it flying backwards!
There are some good points though. The earlier levels provide a lot of fun as the design of the tracks and handling of the cars combine well for a rewarding experience. And the music is a highlight with some very catchy tunes and a few old Nintendo favourites locked away for later discovery. But get towards the end of the single-player game and the handling characteristics of the faster vehicles make for a frustrating experience where it's difficult to negotiate the track, let alone over-take the robot cars.
So if this is your first foray into the handheld gaming, Ridge Racer DS will give you a solid start, but if you only have the cash for one racing game on your DS, you're probably better off looking elsewhere.Ridge Racer DS is on sale now.