Diddy Kong Racing
Reviewed by Minna Kim Mazza
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-02-23 Nintendo DS Racing E (Everyone) Nintendo

Wizpig is at it again, taking over an island paradise, and it's up to Diddy Kong and friends to save the island from certain doom... by winning races!

Ok so if that storyline doesn't make much sense, don't fret. Eventually you do get to race! This is a remake of the game with the same name for the N64, with a bunch of changes to highlight the DS capabilities, though the general gist of the game is the same. Go to different race tracks, and win races to advance the storyline and eventually come face to face with Wizpig. I'm not sure I like all these changes, though. I kind of like being able to see an overhead view of the track in the touch-screen window, but it's somewhat distracting.

You begin in the island paradise, which is marred with the likeness of Wizpig's head in the mountainside. You have a blue elephant/genie friend named Taj who guides you along the way. First he makes you race around the main island area to make sure you know how to drive. It's a simple track running in a circle, and you have to hit all the targets along the way. Once you've finished this, Taj gives you a golden balloon, which allows you access to the first track area. As you collect golden balloons, you'll get access to more tracks. To collect the balloons you win races, or find them around the island. Sometimes Taj has you do tasks to earn balloons too.

You kind of get the feeling that you're lost a lot of the time. Fortunately for me, I've played the N64 version all the way through, so I had an idea of where to go. Racetracks are spread out on the island in different areas loosely related to climate, which highlights different racing vehicles (hovercraft in the water, airplane in the molten lava caves, etc.) Each area has several tracks which are noted with a big locked door, which you unlock with all the golden balloons you collect.

The racing part of the game is probably the most fun. While racing around the track, you can collect enhancements or weapons to deter your rivals. These are mostly in the form of different color balloons, and the weapon or enhancement type shows up in the corner of your screen. If you collect more than one of the same color balloon in a row, you can upgrade your enhancement or weapon. I'm trying not to use the word "power-up" because that refers to a special token that has an up-arrow which can further upgrade your enhancement or weapon.

There are also "wish keys" around the world in racetracks that you collect in order to unlock a special door in each area. Win that race and you get a piece of the TT amulet. What does this do? Make you race a lot more. I don't remember exactly what you "win" when you get TT, but it really doesn't affect your storyline completion.

The additional game "enhancements" for the DS are annoying to me at best. One of the worst is having to blow into the microphone to boost your speed for the hovercraft, and also in one of the mini games where you have to blow out torches. If your DS didn't have enough bacteria on it already, why not add some more with your saliva! I'm not a big fan of overly using the stylus, and I generally like games that allow you to use traditional buttons as well as the stylus to do the same action. I hated having to go to "rub the magic lamp" every time I wanted to access Taj's menu.

Eventually you get to create your own custom racetrack. Again you have to unlock this in order to do it! There are a lot of fun things to unlock in the game, so if you are into that sort of thing, you'll enjoy looking for all the hidden items!

You can also play online with the Wi-Fi connection. However, you can't chat with people, so it's best to play the multiplayer version when sitting in the same room. Of course then, what's the point of being able to play online? Definitely to avoid having to go through the crazy storylines! The actual racing part of the game is what I find the most fun about Diddy Kong racing. Having to find all the special items in the game is fun, as long as you are in that frame of mind of adventuring. If you just want a pure racing game, this game might not do it for you, I'd pick up Mario Kart instead.

Special thanks to Chris Olmstead at Golin-Harris for providing a copy of this title.