Back in our rosy-cheeked youth - as N64 magazine - we gave the N64's Diddy Kong Racing a whopping 90% and a 12-page review. Not in any way excessive: it needed the space. DK Racing is positively stuffed; features, modes, unlockables poking through shirt buttonholes... it put enough strain on the cartridge's metaphorical belt to force leathery tears of pain. Bad news belt; cart got smaller, game got bigger.
Players race - naturally - in karts, planes and bastard-slide-mobiles. Sorry, hovercrafts. Unlike the simpler but slightly more polished Mario Kart DS, the emphasis is on repeat returns to tracks under the guise of new challenges; simple races make way for time trials, coin-collecting runs, boss battles and so on.
Newly pulled from Rare's patented brain-hat are stylus-incorporating on-the-rails first-person magic carpet balloon-popping rides. Stroking the screen sides to direct their view, while prodding balloons - it ain't racing, but it's well-implemented and ranks high on the one-more-go-o-meter.
Chimp your ride
Less addictive but further proof that Rare still 'get' Nintendo hardware are special Touch Races. In these events, the game forsakes its Mario Kart DS aping controls for a fully stylus-directed race. Players accelerate by spinning a wheel on the touch screen map before drawing the course they want the kart to take, à la Kirby Power Paintbrush. Fiddly as hell, maybe, but it drips with cheeky innovation.
Just as cheeky, but more deserving of a slap is the starting boost - absolutely vital in the still-rock hard boss encounters. No timed button press here - you need to physically rev the engine by spinning a wheel, rotating a propeller or blowing into the mic/hovercraft. Not helpful when you need those stylus-holding fingers free for, say, controlling the moving vehicle?
Franchise quibbles aside, there's no denying the quality here: a plethora of Wi-Fi options, kart upgrades, recording your own sound effects, a simple track editor, even drawing your own artwork for the tracks. This is a Rare treat.
Rare are so good with Nintendo hardware and it's proved so good for them too. Yes, it's a less charming Mario Kart, but this game is packed with ideas and fantastic racing.