Sponsored By

We examine online reaction to the Nintendo-published and Rare-developed Diddy Kong Racing DS, a portable remake of a classic Nintendo 64 kart racing title, examining why the title is getting 'lukewarm' responses from many critics.

Danny Cowan, Blogger

February 7, 2007

5 Min Read

This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to the Nintendo-published and Rare-developed Diddy Kong Racing DS, a portable remake of a classic Nintendo 64 kart racing title. Upon its original release in 1997, Diddy Kong Racing faced equal shares of praise and criticism. While it may have been a solid racer in its own right, Diddy Kong Racing had the misfortune of being released in close proximity to Mario Kart 64, a game that many still regard as one of the best character-based kart racing titles of all time. Diddy Kong Racing may have won its share of fans, but many believed that its failure to live up to the high standards set by Mario Kart 64 hurt its chances at becoming an all-time classic. This week, however, the game got a second chance at winning over the hearts of gamers with the release of Diddy Kong Racing DS, an upgraded port with a number of new DS-specific features and additions. Thus far, critical response has been lukewarm. Pulling in an average review score ratio of 68%, Diddy Kong Racing once again suffers in the shadow of the latest Mario Kart release, though critics say that the title does have its strong points. "Diddy Kong Racing DS marks Rare's first entry into Nintendo DS development, and it's an ambitious one," begins IGN's Craig Harris in his review, in which he awards Diddy Kong Racing DS a rating of 7.1 out of 10. "There are tons of DS-specific extras added to the product, some of which have been spawned from unsuccessful concepts that were scoffed at in the system's first year." Unfortunately: "It's these new DS-centric elements that point to the fact that this is a first-generation DS game handled by a team that's not quite familiar with the platform." Harris cites the game's implementation of microphone-based objectives as being particularly annoying, and describes the new "Touch Balloon" challenges as being "flat out bad and poorly developed." This is in spite of a solid racing engine and a strong replay incentive. "Diddy Kong Racing DS excels in extras and actually offers a mean set of items that really does encourage players to zoom through single player mode to unlock the lot," Harris says. "The racing's fun and challenging, no question," Harris summarizes. "The ability to zoom around in cars, planes, and watercraft is reason enough to give this one a go on the Nintendo DS. But unfortunately the development team focused a bit too much on 'DS-izing' the product with completely unnecessary and frustrating touch-screen and microphone challenges that disrupt the racing design." Brett Elston of Games Radar is less kind in his 6-out-of-10 review. "Diddy Kong Racing wants so damn hard to be the next Mario Kart that it hurts our eyes to play it for long periods of time," he states. "The racing itself is totally fine (if a little slow), but this simple pleasure is smothered in monotonous collecting and mindless wandering." "Much like any of Rare's other games," Elston continues, "Diddy throws so much random collectible nonsense at you that you feel like you're missing out if you don't grab it all, but end up resenting every single minute you play when you inevitably go for it all." Elston feels that were it not for the title's newfound focus on collectibles, Diddy Kong Racing DS would be a decent revival of a worthy classic. "For those who remember the Nintendo 64 version from 1997, this is mostly the same game," he notes. However: "With all these missing items and a barnyard of uninspired characters running around, we can't help but think how much better Mario Kart DS plays. Go buy it instead." Aaron Thomas at GameSpot expresses similar ambivalence in his review, scored at 6.7 out of 10. "If you didn't like the original game, there's nothing here that's going to change your mind," he admits, "but it is a solid racing game that, good or bad, has enough content to keep you busy for a very long time." Though Thomas is disappointed in the flimsy DS-exclusive additions, he feels that a competent racer with a surprisingly robust online mode lurks under a rough exterior. "One of Diddy Kong Racing's strengths is its multiplayer," he praises. "Online racing is surprisingly smooth, and there was no lag to speak of. Even if you don't have any friend codes, you can still race online, which is nice for those people who find the whole friend-code system tedious." "Some of the new additions, such as online multiplayer and the various customization features, make the game more enjoyable, but many of them, particularly the touch-screen controls, make it worse," Harris concludes. "If you don't mind that the game sometimes feels more like Donkey Kong 64 than a racing game, then you'll probably enjoy all that Diddy Kong Racing DS has to offer. But if you just want to race, there are better options." Diddy Kong Racing DS has not had as welcoming of a reception as other recent classic revivals. Critics feel that Diddy Kong Racing DS's best aspects lie not in superfluous additions, but in the strengths of its core gameplay. If these reviews are to be believed, fans of the original N64 title might find Diddy Kong Racing DS a worthy remake, but others -- particularly those who have already played Mario Kart DS -- would do well to exercise caution before making a purchase.

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like