Top Gear: Downforce Preview
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-10-18 Nintendo DS Racing E (Everyone) Merscom

Ever since Top Gear's initial release on the SNES back in the early 90's, the franchise has allowed players to enjoy a unique take on the average racing game, providing realistic physics and handling while making the game user friendly, even to the most inexperienced of racers. In taking this tradition of quality to the Nintendo DS, Merscom has added a bit of flair and fantasy to the already proven formula, and at a conference call with representatives from the company, I was able to learn how the series has grown.

Top Gear: Downforce marks the franchise's first foray onto the Nintendo DS. Unlike past games, Downforce is played from a top down perspective. According to James Barrell from Merscom, "it's like Micro Machines from a top down view." The actual racing will take place on the top screen, with the camera view providing a real test of reflexes as the environment rapidly flies by underneath and around you.

Where the main gameplay takes place on the top screen, the touch screen has been reserved for a mini race map, showing your opponents positions on the track. It also allows you to keep track of hazards that you have added to each of the 24 tracks available.

These hazards allow players to have more control over each race. Each of the 24 tracks has a unique theme, and as a result, the hazards available match that theme. For instance, in "Stormy Jungle", the hazards include tornadoes and lightning bolts that you can place to add a bit of difficulty to each race. In addition to upping the challenge, these hazards can be placed in different locations each race, which keeps the whole system from becoming too repetitive.

In addition to a robust single player mode, filled with multiple cars, paint jobs, etc. Merscom has added an even more impressive multiplayer aspect to keep fans entertained.

Where most games normally only allow a 2 minute demo of the game, when sending it to another DS, Downforce will allow players to take part in a full grand prix, and have all of the options available to them as if they had actually purchased the game. This enhanced demo should be great for those that haven't yet made up their mind about buying the game or not.

But, for times when both players do have the game, the multiplayer is set to really shine. All of the hazards and customizable options will make their way into multiplayer races, and with 48 races to choose from (one forward and one backward on each track), the possibilities are endless. Up to 12 players' data can be saved on each cartridge, which will allow players to compare their opponents' racing styles with theirs, and challenge them to beat their best times.

At the time of this writing, an official release date has not been set, but it is known that Top Gear: Downforce will make its debut in November of 2007, just in time for the holiday rush.