It's your standard racing game, with the Mario Twist.
Besides for Mario's main platforming adventures, the most recent being Super Mario Galaxy, Mario's best sports-take would be his very own racing titles: the Mario Kart franchise. The latest Mario Kart title (not including Mario Kart Wii) is Mario Kart DS, and you guessed it; it's on the Nintendo DS platform. Nintendo does a fine job of bringing their best racing franchise onto another handheld, but how does it compare?
When you start the game you will be greeted with a nice picture of Mario... jumping in his Kart (not into his kart, but actually jumping while inside the kart). Anyways, the karts themselves look nice, especially when you're choosing which kart to go into in the Grand Prix mode. You can easily find yourself killing time just to marvel at all the character's specific karts. However, the characters just seems very bulky compared to their rides. Mario's hat should not be so pointy and his fist should not be a square, but what can we expect from the Nintendo DS graphic-wise. Also the big characters, Donkey Kong and Bowser, look rushed and not as polished as the others. In my opinion Yoshi is the best looking character, but that's not important. When you actually start racing though, none of that will matter as both the characters and the kart look very smooth. However, the courses are often very pixelated, whether you're going full speed or just looking around. You shouldn't even be stopping to look at the scenery seeing how it is a racing game.
Does anybody remember Super Mario Bros.? Well, the people who composed SMB has also composed for this game as well. Sound is one of Nintendo's specialties right next to gameplay and it doesn't disappoint. The music is elegantly composed. The whole tune, including the menu, has a very Mario Kart-vibe. The music isn't the only great thing about Mario Kart DS, but the overall sound is done quite well. From Mario's "Here we go!" to Yoshi's "Ha-Hoo", the voice overs are spot on, though we only really hear them when you use or get hit by an item. Speaking of items, their sounds entertain as well. Even the banana's 'sploot' sounds funny. However, my favorite item sound is the blue shell. It sounds like a bomb is about to hit you (and it does). Before it hits you, you can hear the whistling, a sign that it is coming for you and then suddenly an explosion erupts.
As far as gameplay goes, it is your standard racing game, with of course the Mario twist. The objective of each race is to finish each course, with a total of three laps, and try to get past the finish line in first place. The thing that separates Mario Kart from all of the other racing games is the idea of items. Within the courses there will usually be more than opportune times to see a floating rainbow box. These rainbow boxes contain one of many different kinds of items. Mario Kart DS also brings some new items to the table such as Bullet Bill and the Octopus' Ink Cover. In the Grand Prix mode, you have the choice of choosing 1 of 3 difficulties, 50cc, 100 cc, and 150cc. You can also unlock a 150cc Mirror mode, where all of the courses are flipped horizontally. The Battle mode also makes a return where you control a character and try to pop each player's 3 balloons or stealing them. In battle mode you can also play the Shine Runners, in which you try to collect the most Shine Sprites. After the time runs out the person with the most shine sprites wins. A new feature in Mario Kart DS is the mission mode, where they give you an objective that you must complete. Snaking is also persistent in this this game. Snaking is essentially where you perform drifts to get a turbo. The controls are simple. A to accelerate forward and B to do the reverse. The R button causes you to drift and to snake repeatedly presses Left,Right,Left,Right on the D-Pad and then release the R Button. To use an item press the L button. Very, very simple controls.
With this many features, you'll be finding yourself stick your Mario Kart DS cartridge into the DS every now and then. With the four Grand Prix options (50cc, 100cc,150cc, & 150 Mirror cc), the battle modes, and mission modes all in one cartridge you can find yourself playing this by yourself. If you have friends over with a ds and mario kart cartridge of their own, You can race with your friends and battle and everything the single player options let you do (except for Mission Mode). If you friend has a DS, but not a Mario Kart , DS game, you can use the DS download play feature to do the exact same thing that you can do if they do have the game. The only thing that you cant do if you use DS Download play is that anybody who downloads it cannot choose their characters and are automatically Shyguys. Also, Mario Kart DS is the 1st DS game to implement Wi-Fi features so you can battle and race with anybody online. You'll come back to this game over and over again.